Sunset on Mars: NASA’s Curiosity Captures Martian Sun Rays For the First Time

The Sun doesn't radiate quite as strongly on Mars as it does on Earth because of the vast distance between them. And because of this, sunrises and sunsets on Mars are very dissimilar from those we are used to.

However, until now, we lacked a precise image of how the sun appeared on Mars.

On February 2, the mission's 3730th Mars day, NASA revealed that its Curiosity rover had photographed these "sun rays" beaming through clouds at dusk (or sol).

The pictures, which are made up of 28 separate shots from the rover's Mast Camera, or Mastcam, have been edited to emphasize the details. Additionally, the image released by NASA shows light beams barely visible through a layer of clouds that cover the area.

This was the first time sun beams, or crepuscular rays, were seen so vividly on Mars, according to NASA. 'Crepuscular' came from the Latin term for 'twilight' since these rays make an apparition near sunset or dawn.

The photograph was captured by Curiosity during its most recent investigation of dusk clouds, which builds upon its studies of noctilucent clouds from 2021.

The majority of clouds on Mars are composed of water ice and only rise 60 kilometers above the soil. However, the most recent images show clouds that appear to be at a higher height, where it is extremely frigid. This implies that the clouds are made of dry ice, or carbon dioxide ice.

Scientists can learn more about where and when clouds develop by observing the clouds on Mars. And knowing the makeup and temps of the Martian atmosphere as well as the weather is essential.

On January 27, Curiosity captured another fascinating picture of a group of colorful clouds in the form of a feather. A phenomenon known as "iridescence" occurs when certain kinds of clouds are exposed to sunshine and produce a rainbow-like show.

"Iridescence indicates that all of a cloud's particle diameters are equal to those of its neighbors. By observing color changes, we can observe how the particulate size varies throughout the fog. That provides information on the cloud's evolution and the gradual size change of its particles "said Mark Lemmon, an atmospheric expert at Boulder, Colorado's Space Science Institute.