This is awesome. NASA’s Curiosity rover has captured images of clouds moving in the sky of Mars. I really can’t get over how great this is.
According to NASA, they are the most clearly visible clouds yet seen by Curiosity. Clouds on Mars have been seen before, by Curiosity and other missions, but these are in particular clarity (relatively speaking).
The images were taken on July 17. They are black and white because they’re from the Navigation Camera (Navcam), which doesn’t take color images. The low image quality is because these are raw images returned by the rover.
Still, it’s really awesome. Two sets of eight images of the sky were taken by Navcam. One set was taken looking straight up, and the other was taken pointing towards the southern horizon. The images were stitched together by Charissa Campbell from York University in Toronto, Canada. She combined the images together to show how the clouds moved over time.
On Earth, our clouds are made of water and ice crystals. It’s similar on Mars, where the clouds are probably made of crystals of water ice, which condense out of dust grains when it’s cold in the atmosphere.
"The wisps are created as those crystals fall and evaporate in patterns known as 'fall streaks' or 'mare's tails,'” said Curiosity science-team member John Moores from York University in a statement. “While the rover does not have a way to ascertain the altitude of these clouds, on Earth such clouds form at high altitude."
Clouds aren’t ever-present on Mars, and they’re often timed with the planet’s elliptical orbit. Normally they appear near the equator when Mars is furthest from the Sun, but it’s a couple of months from that happening, so these clouds are a bit early.