NASA Image Of Ingenuity Did Not Capture A Martian Rainbow – Here’s An Explanation

News

NASA released a stunning image of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter on the surface of the planet as the Perseverance rover moved away from it. For some people on social media, however, the arc feature in the background of the photo caught their eye. Is it a rainbow? While that is an intriguing question, here’s an explanation of what you are really seeing.

Before the explanation, it is worth noting that Ingenuity flights are scheduled for no earlier than April 11th. According to the NASA website, the objective of the mission is, “A technology demonstration to test the first powered flight on Mars.” Ingenuity hitched a ride to Mars on the Perseverance rover. The NASA website goes on to say, “For the first flight, the helicopter will take off a few feet from the ground, hover in the air for about 20 to 30 seconds, and land.” While that may sound “meh” to some of you, keep in mind that this would actually be the first powered flight of a human aircraft system within the thin Martian atmosphere. Over time, higher altitude and longer distance flights are planned.

Ok, let’s get back to the image above and the arc feature in the sky. Many people referred to it as a rainbow on social media. Others speculated that it was caused by ice crystals in Martian high clouds. Some argued that it was a field of view artifact of the camera lens. What’s the correct answer? I reached out to my friend and colleague Lisa May who is a veteran of the NASA Mars Program. She is currently Chief Technologist for Lockheed Martin Commercial Civil Space Advanced Programs. Her initial thought was a “field of view (FOV)” artifact with the HazCam. May points out that there is no rain on Mars, but snow has been observed at the Poles. The Martian atmosphere does have water vapor in the upper atmosphere and clouds composed of water ice.

May referred me to Dave Lavery at NASA Headquarters who told me, “Definitely not a rainbow….It is just internal reflections in the camera lens.” He compared it to when you get “lens flare” in any other camera system. He pointed out that, “The rover is almost due north of the helicopter, so the camera is looking almost straight south at about 2:00pm local Mars solar time when these images were taken.” According to Lavery, who is Program Executive for Solar System Exploration at the nation’s space agency, those conditions are optimal for stray light capture in the camera optics.

Articles You May Like

Outdoor co-op REI nudges suppliers on climate and equity
Quick Charge Podcast: April 10, 2021
Coinbase indicated to open on Nasdaq at about $360 per share, up from $250 reference price
How junior scientists can land a seat at the leadership table
A ‘no-brainer’ decision to become a COVID-19 vaccine-centre volunteer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *