Clouds On Mars: Just Like Regular Clouds, Only Rainbow

Clouds On Mars: Just Like Regular Clouds, Only Rainbow
Image: NASA

The Curiosity Rover has sent back a series of photos of some exquisite Mars cloud coverage, so enjoy as a little afternoon treat.

Due to its thin, dry atmosphere, Mars rarely sees cloudy days like we have here on Earth, which makes it all the more exciting when we occasionally get a glimpse of an overcast Mars day.

To be more specific, Martian clouds only really appear when the red planet is at its furthest point from the sun, which only occurs every two years.

We learned this roughly two years ago when the Curiosity Rover found clouds that came earlier and appeared higher in the sky than we had previously expected.

Using this information, NASA was able to programme the rover to capture said cloud cover this time around.

Yes, these cloud pictures took two years to execute, which makes my dreary photos of the overcast Melbourne sky feel very insignificant.

Mars clouds
Image: NASA

But these aren’t just any clouds, they appear shimmery and iridescent like something out of a dream.

This is because the temperatures are so cold that the planet’s wispy clouds are actually filled with tiny ice crystals (made from frozen carbon dioxide – aka dry ice) that shimmer in the sunlight.

“If you see a cloud with a shimmery pastel set of colors in it, that’s because the cloud particles are all nearly identical in size,” Space Science Institute atmospheric scientist Mark Lemmon said in a statement.

“That’s usually happening just after the clouds have formed and have all grown at the same rate.

“I always marvel at the colours that show up: reds and greens and blues and purples,” Lemmon said. “It’s really cool to see something shining with lots of colour on Mars.”

Scientists know that these clouds arrive earlier in the year and develop at a higher altitude than regular Martian clouds, but they’re still not exactly sure why.

Regardless, they’re super pretty to look at and make our Earth clouds seem super boring. You can view all the pictures on the NASA website here.