Curiosity is one busy rover. Since touching down on Mars in 2012, it’s helped astronomers locate the planet’s missing methane, delivered new evidence that Mars was once wet, and even provided clues of extraterrestrial life.
But all work and no play makes Curiosity a dull bot, so it recently kicked back to do some cloud-watching — filming the stunning scene for our viewing pleasure (and obviously for science, too).
According to a NASA news release, Curiosity used its black-and-white Navigation Cameras to take photos of the clouds drifting about 31 kilometers (19 miles) above the surface of Mars on May 7 and May 12. The agency speculates that they’re likely water-ice clouds, which float through the Martian atmosphere practically year-round.
NASA is now trying to coordinate with another Mars visitor — the Insight lander — to take photos of the same clouds as Curiosity at the same time, as this will allow them to make more accurate inferences about the clouds’ altitude. The findings could improve our understanding of what’s happening in the Red Planet’s atmosphere.