NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover clicks images of the Earth and Venus in the red planet’s night sky

The colour and brightness of the sky appeared different in this image because of the presence of all the high-altitude dust in the Martian air right now.


NASA's Curiosity Mars rover recently captured images of Earth and Venus in the night sky from the Red Planet. The rover’s mast camera clicked pictures about 75 minutes after sunset on 5 June.

A two-image twilight panorama of Earth and Venus shows both the planets as mere pinpoints of light, which scientists attribute to a combination of distance and dust in the air.

The pictures were taken to gauge the increased brightness of the twilight sky at a time of year when more dust is suspended in the Martian atmosphere than usual.

 NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover clicks images of the Earth and Venus in the red planet’s night sky

The Curiosity rover on Mars in early June 2018. Image courtesy: NASA

"Even moderately bright stars were not visible when this image of Venus was taken. Earth also has bright twilights after some large volcanic eruptions," said Mastcam co-investigator Mark Lemmon of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the colour and brightness of the sky appeared different from these most recent images when Curiosity snapped Earth and its moon in 2014. The reason behind the change in colour and brightness is the presence of all the high-altitude dust in the Martian air right now.

The rover was launched on an Atlas V 54 1 on 26 November 2011, from Cape Carnival Air Force Station. It landed on the surface of Mars on 5 August 2012.

Two images of the night sky were combined to show Earth and Venus as seen by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on June 5, 2020, the mission's 2,784th Martian day, or sol. The planets appear as pinpoints of light owing to a combination of distance and dust in the air. Mars' Tower Butte is visible at bottom. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Two images of the night sky were combined to show Earth and Venus as seen by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on June 5, 2020, the mission's 2,784th Martian day, or sol. The planets appear as pinpoints of light owing to a combination of distance and dust in the air. Mars' Tower Butte is visible at the bottom. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Its main mission was to find if Mars has the right environmental conditions to support small life forms. Curiosity revealed information about this pretty early on in its mission. Mars has life on it and it has an atmosphere in which microbes could thrive — a mix of sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon.

The rover has also divulged that the amounts of methane in the red planet’s air vary throughout the year. Presence of methane cycle gives a hint that life once survived on Mars. On its mission, Curiosity also found that millions of years ago, Mars had rivers and lakes on its surface.

As per a report in CNET, presently Curiosity is the only functioning rover on Mars at the moment. Its predecessor Opportunity which depended on sunlight to operate got knocked out during a dust storm. NASA plans to launch the Perseverance rover in July and if things go to plan, it will land on the planet in February 2021.


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