Curiosity Rover Sends Back Entrancing Photos of Clouds on Mars

The March 5 rocket

Wispy, early-season clouds resembling Earth's ice-crystal cirrus clouds move across the Martian sky in some new image sequences from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover.

Researchers used Curiosity's Navigation Camera (Navcam) to take two sets of eight images of the sky on an early Martian morning in July. For one set, the camera pointed almost straight up.

The images represent Curiosity's best look yet at clouds on Mars.

In this second set, the camera was pointed at the south horizon, and like the first images, the frames were corrected for differing sensitivities between pixels and for light that was reflected inside the camera. NASA notes that the clouds are likely composed of water ice crystals that condensed onto dust grains in the atmosphere. Cloud movement was recorded in both and was made easier to see by image enhancement.

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"The wisps are created as those crystals fall and evaporate in patterns known as "fall streaks" or "mare's tails".

If you've ever paused to gaze up at the sky just to watch the clouds, then you have something in common with NASA's Mars Curiosity rover.

Mars' elliptical orbit means that its distance from the Sun varies much more than our own. NASA enhanced and accelerated the sequence of images and released the animations on Thursday.

The Curiosity mission has been investigating the environmental conditions of ancient and modern Mars since the rover landed on Aug. 5, 2012, PDT (Aug. 6, EDT and Universal Time).

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