When NASA posted an image of Mars on April 4 by its Perseverance rover, it didn't imagine it would go viral.
Oh, but it did. And the reason it spread across websites and social media like wildfire was because it looked like NASA had photographed a rainbow on the Red Planet, and quite frankly, who doesn't like a multicolored arc in the sky?
The photograph garnered so much attention that NASA felt the need to step in to rightly inform its captivated public that that arc wasn't, in fact, a rainbow, but a Hazcam lens flare.
The not-so-glorious news was shared by NASA on its Twitter page on Tuesday 6 April, in which the space agency stated "Many have asked: Is that a rainbow on Mars? No. Rainbows aren't possible here. Rainbows are created by light reflected off of round water droplets, but there isn't enough water here to condense, and it's too cold for liquid water in the atmosphere. This arc is a lens flare."
Many have asked: Is that a rainbow on Mars? No. Rainbows aren't possible here. Rainbows are created by light reflected off of round water droplets, but there isn't enough water here to condense, and it’s too cold for liquid water in the atmosphere. This arc is a lens flare. pic.twitter.com/mIoSSuilJW— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) April 6, 2021
So there you have it, a clean and clear explanation of Mars' conditions, as well as what that mystifying arc really was.
Digging a little deeper into the matter and the explanation, JPL media relations specialist Andrew Good told Futurism that "We have sunshades on the front Hazcams, which were considered mission-critical (since we need them for driving forward, and we’re usually driving forward)."
"Sunshades weren’t considered essential on the back ones,” Good explained, “so you can still see scattered light artifacts in their images."
One such "artifact" was this captured lens flare.
The photo was just one of NASA's Mars Perseverance rover's jobs since it landed on the planet on February 18. Its mission on Mars is to look for signs of ancient life on the rocky Red Planet and collect samples to bring back to Earth.
It still has a lot in store for it, with a busy schedule ahead, and we'll no doubt see more viral photographs gracing various social media platforms in due course.