The American space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on Monday that a breathtaking photograph of a martian sunset was acquired by the Mars Curiosity Rover, showing light rays that lighted a bank of clouds as the sun fell over the horizon.
According to the space agency, these “sun rays” are also known as crepuscular rays, from the Latin word for “twilight.” It was the first time on Mars that sun rays could be seen so clearly.
NASA stated that in addition to the image of sun rays, Curiosity captured a set of colorful clouds shaped like a feather on Jan. 27. When illuminated by sunlight, certain types of clouds can create a rainbow-like display called iridescence.
“Where we see iridescence, it means a cloud’s particle sizes are identical to their neighbours in each part of the cloud,” said Mark Lemmon, an atmospheric scientist with the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
“By looking at colour transitions, we’re seeing particle size changing across the cloud.” That tells us about the way the cloud is evolving and how its particles are changing size over time.”
Curiosity captured both the sun rays and the iridescent clouds as panoramas, each of which was stitched together from 28 images sent to Earth. The images have been processed to emphasise the highlights.
Curiosity was built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed by Caltech in Pasadena, California. JPL leads the mission on behalf of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego built and operates Mastcam.
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