NASA's Mars rover captures clouds drifting across the Martian sky

The images allow scientists to calculate how fast the clouds are moving and how high they are.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Martian clouds.NASA

What is the Martian sky like?

We may have wondered that while looking at our own blue version.

Luckily, we now have an answer thanks to NASA's Mars rover, according to a statement by the agency released on Tuesday.

Clouds drifting across a Martian sky

"Clouds can be seen drifting across the Martian sky in an 8-frame movie made using images from a navigation camera aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover. Shadows from these clouds can be seen drifting across the terrain," reads the statement.

NASA has even included a second 8-frame movie in its statement that shows the clouds in all their glory. The movie was taken using the same navigation camera as the first few images and showcases the clouds as they were seen drifting directly above Curiosity.

But these types of movies do so much more than mesmerize. They allow scientists to calculate several important characteristics such as how fast the clouds are moving and how high they are in the sky.

Very high clouds

The researchers concluded that the clouds are very high, nearly 50 miles (80 kilometers) above the surface. The team of scientists was then able to deduce the clouds' composition.

NASA's Mars rover captures clouds drifting across the Martian sky
Source: NASA

Since it's extremely cold at those heights, the clouds would have to be composed of carbon dioxide ice as opposed to Earth's water ice clouds found at lower altitudes.

Martian clouds are not at all pronounced. They appear very faintly in the atmosphere. This means NASA's researchers had to use special imaging techniques to see them.

These techniques consisted of capturing several images in order to get a static background. Once the researchers subtracted this static background, they were able to see the objects moving within the image, in other words, the clouds.

NASA's Curiosity rover has already confirmed clay on the Red Planet and spotted an ancient dried-up oasis. The craft that was launched all the way back in November 2011 just keeps on giving! To see the videos of the Martian clouds, visit NASA's site.


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