In a first, NASA Curiosity rover captures Sun rays on Mars

NASA Curiosity rover has taken a stunning photo of visible Sun rays on Mars for the first time ever since it landed. Know why it is so difficult to see them on the Red Planet.

| Updated on: Mar 10 2023, 16:54 IST
Best NASA Astronomy Pictures of the Week: Large Magellanic Cloud, Dimorphos Asteroid and more
NASA Curiosity rover
1/5 Venus-Jupiter Conjunction (March 6) - It is a stunning picture of Planetary Conjunction involving Jupiter and Venus as it took over the skies back in 2012. It was captured in Szubin, Poland, by creating an illusion of both planets being balanced on two hands. (NASA/Marek Nikodem)
NASA Curiosity rover
2/5 Large Magellanic Cloud (March 7) - The picture shows the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is located about 180,000 light-years away towards the constellation Dorado. According to NASA, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) spans about 15000 light-years. LMC is also the site of the brightest and closest supernova observed in recent times.  (NASA/Yuri Beletsky(TWAN))
NASA Curiosity rover
3/5 Light Pollution (March 8) - The picture shows artificial brightness present in the night sky, which makes observing celestial objects such as stars, planets and others, increasingly difficult. Parts of the US and Western Europe have artificial night sky glow which is nearly 10 times the natural light in the night sky.  (NASA/JPSS Satellites/David J. Lorenz)
NASA Curiosity rover
4/5 Dimorphos Asteroid (March 9) - It is a thrilling picture of the Dimorphos asteroid, captured just 3 seconds before the collision. It was a $330 million venture which proved to be a success as the target asteroid named Dimorphos deflected off its path. While this asteroid in no way threatened Earth, this was an experiment to gain greater knowledge as to what happens when a craft crashes against a space rock.  (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/DART)
NASA Curiosity rover
5/5 Orion and Running Man Nebulae (March 10) - stellar snapshot of the Orion Nebula and the Running Man Nebula. Also known as M42, the Orion Nebula is located about 1500 light-years away and spans about 40 light-years across. Another Nebula can be seen embedded in this region, known as the Running Man Nebula, which is the northmost part of the asterism known as Orion’s Sword.  (NASA/Abraham Jones)
NASA Curiosity rover
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In this image, Sun rays are clearly visible coming through the unusually high clouds on Mars. These were captured by the NASA Curiosity rover. (NASA)

In its long and remarkable tenure on Mars, the NASA Curiosity rover has reached some significant milestones and discovered some really interesting things. The rover was first deployed on the red planet in 2012 and it continues to collect samples and look for signs of life on the planet. Recently, it discovered a bizarre rock formation that looked just like a duck. And now, it has captured a stunning image of a phenomenon which is extremely rare to see on Mars — visible Sun rays.

It should be noted that while sunlight does make its way to Mars' surface just like it does on the Earth, visible Sun rays is not something which is commonly seen. A visible Sun ray is seen on our planet on a hazy day when sunlight is scattered by dust, smoke or other particles. These visible rays are not as common on the red planet, however.

NASA Curiosity rover captures rare Sun rays on Mars

The NASA Curiosity rover captured this stunning image on February 2, as it was conducting a twilight cloud survey. The image, which is part of a panorama shot consisting of 28 individual photos, was shared by the official Twitter handle of Curiosity on March 6. The tweet mentioned, “As I watched the sunset last month, I captured something spectacular: My team says these are some of the most clearly visible images of sun rays we've ever seen on Mars”.

Clouds on Mars are made up of ice crystals of water and carbon dioxide at an average altitude of 60 kilometers from the surface. However, the ones pictured are much higher than that, which is why the phenomenon became visible.

The sun rays on Mars appear white in color unlike on Earth where they are seen in yellowish tint. This is due to the fact that the Martian planet has a very thin atmosphere and the sunlight does not scatter much.

While it may seem like an inconsequential discovery, it helps astronomers form a better understanding of the atmosphere of Mars, its composition and the differences between it and the Earth.

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First Published Date: 10 Mar, 16:37 IST