Stunning images from NASA have captured a Martian sunset last month, marking the first time sun rays have been so clearly viewed on the Red Planet.
NASA’s Curiosity Rover took photographs of beams of light illuminating a bank of clouds during a magnificent Feb. 2 sunset above Mars, according to NASA.
The “sun rays” captured in the image are known as crepuscular rays, a name that comes from the Latin word for “twilight.”
Last month was the first time such rays have been so clearly visible on Mars, NASA said.
Curiosity’s most recent images build on its 2021 observations of noctilucent, or night-shining clouds.
Most Martian clouds hover no higher than 37 miles above Mars and are made up of water ice, but the clouds featured in the newest image appear to be positioned higher in the sky.
The clouds at the higher altitude, where its especially cold, seem to suggest that these particular clouds are made up of dry ice.
NASA says it examines the clouds found on Mars to better learn about the atmosphere’s composition and temperatures, as well as the winds within it.
The 2021 cloud survey included imaging done by the rover’s black-and-white navigation cameras, which provide a detailed look at a cloud’s structure as it moves.
The most recent cloud survey, however, utilizes NASA’s color Mast Camera, or MastCam, which takes color images and footage that can then be stitched together to create large panoramas of the landscape.
It can also help scientists see how cloud particles grow over time.
NASA’s current survey will be completed by mid-March.
Curiosity also captured a photograph of colorful clouds shaped like a feather on Jan. 27.
According to NASA, some types of clouds can create a rainbow-like display called iridescence.
Both the image of the sun rays and iridescent clouds were captured as panoramas, stitched together from 28 images sent back to Earth. The images have been processed to emphasize the highlights.