Tech UPTechnologyCuriosity Captures Ice Clouds of CO2 on Mars

Curiosity Captures Ice Clouds of CO2 on Mars

Clouds on Mars are not a common phenomenon although, when they do exist, they originate at the planet’s equator during the cold season of the Martian year. Martian clouds are not made of water as they are here on Earth, but are made of carbon dioxide ice due to the altitude at which they are found. Nor do they generate leafy structures as can occur on our planet, but rather they are very faint in the atmosphere, which is why it is necessary to use very detailed imaging techniques to be able to identify and see them, just as we can now do with these snapshots captured by the rover NASA Curiosities.


Fascinating images of Martian clouds

Curiosity has given us most of what we know about clouds on Mars.

In the two images in GIF format that the US space agency has published, taken at its current exploration site, Mount Sharp ( Aeolis Mons ), we can see the Martian clouds, but each one of them shows us a different perspective . In the first, we see clouds of carbon dioxide ice over the sparse Martian landscape, and the other captures the clouds buzzing directly over the Curiosity rover.

According to scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, taking images of drifting Martian clouds has not been an easy task, since Curiosity’s cameras are not designed to look skyward, but rather are geared toward imaging. of the rocks and landscape features of Mars on their journey to search for ancient signs of habitability.

“These clouds are very high, almost 80 kilometers above the surface,” according to NASA. “It’s very cold at that height, which suggests that these clouds are composed of carbon dioxide ice rather than water ice clouds, which are normally found at lower altitudes.”



To capture the images, the rover took multiple snapshots to obtain a clear, static background, something that allows anything else moving within the image (such as clouds or shadows) to become visible after subtracting this static background from each individual image. explains NASA.

The digitally enhanced images were taken on December 12, 2021, on Curiosity’s sol 3325, or Martian day.

NASA hasn’t mentioned how fast Martian clouds move, but typical wind speeds near the surface of Mars are about 7 kilometers per hour at 35 km/h, which could be fast enough to provide wind power on the Red Planet.

Curiosity’s story

Curiosity has been in Martian territory since August 6, 2012 (well longer than its companion Perseverance, which arrived with the Ingenuity helicopter on February 18, 2021), and has been collecting and analyzing rock samples and transmitting data to Mars ever since. 560 million kilometers: to Earth. Due to the success of the mission all these years, NASA decided to extend its functions indefinitely after being active for more than 3,000 days.

How many rovers are on Mars now?

The truth is that the red planet has become quite a busy place, as far as robotic population is concerned. Three rovers and one lander have landed in recent years: Curiosity (NASA), Perseverance (NASA), Zhurong (CNSA, Chinese Space Agency) and Insight (NASA), respectively.

Reference: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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