Science and Exploration

Curiosity Views A Sunset On Mars

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
March 12, 2023
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Curiosity Views A Sunset On Mars
Curiosity Views A Sunset On Mars

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover captured these “sun rays” shining through clouds at sunset on Feb. 2, 2023, the 3,730th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

It was the first time that sun rays, also known as crepuscular rays, have been viewed so clearly on Mars. Crepuscular is taken from the Latin word for “twilight,” as these rays appear near sunset or sunrise.

These clouds were captured as part of a follow-on imaging campaign to study noctilucent, or “night-shining” clouds, which started in 2021. While most Martian clouds hover no more than 37 miles (60 kilometers) above the ground and are composed of water ice, these clouds appear to be higher in elevation, where it’s very cold. That suggests these clouds are made of carbon dioxide, or dry ice.

This scene made up of 28 individual images captured by the rover’s Mast Camera, or Mastcam. The images have been processed to emphasize the highlights.

Curiosity was built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed by Caltech in Pasadena, California. JPL leads the mission on behalf of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego built and operates Mastcam.

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SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.