Just a few days later, the rover took another unique image of sunbeams peeking out from behind cloud formations, features known as crepuscular rays. (The contrast was enhanced in the image above.) This is the first time this type of light pattern was caught on Mars.
Both images are part of a survey being conducted from January to mid-March. The survey first began in 2021 and focused on studying noctilucent, or night shining clouds. Martian clouds are often located some 37 miles (60 kilometers) above the ground and are usually filled with water ice. However, the clouds in these images are believed to reside higher in the atmosphere. In that case, the beautiful clouds pictured here are most likely made of frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice.
Curiosity was launched to the planet in 2011 with the goal of studying martian environments and geology, as well as searching for biomarkers suggestive of past or present life on the Red Planet. By now studying the planet’s clouds in surveys like this, Curiosity is offering insight into Mars’ atmospheric composition, winds, and overall weather patterns.