Perseverance Rover Captures Ominous Signal of Mars’ Impending Cloudy Season

Eerie cloud cover on Mars, as seen by Perseverance's Navcam.

The sky is a hazy shade of—er, summer time—on Mars, as captured in a brand new picture by NASA’s Perseverance rover.

Mars has 4 seasons, like Earth does, however they’re a bit completely different from what we expertise on our moist, life-filled planet. A Martian yr is 687 Earth days, made up of 668 Mars sols, so its seasons last more, too. They’re additionally extra inconsistent than ours: Within the Martian northern hemisphere, spring lasts 194 days, whereas autumn lasts solely 142 days. Mars’ ambiance is simply 1% the density of Earth’s, and the whole planet is way colder and duster.

Across the Martian summer time solstice (which is able to happen on July 12 this yr), spacecraft orbiting Mars have traditionally noticed plenty of cloud cowl in its northern hemisphere. Now, the Perseverance rover is seeing proof of these clouds from the floor, as evidenced in a current photograph captured by the rover’s Left Navigation Digital camera, or Navcam.

Ordinarily, the navigation digicam does simply that: It scopes out the Martian panorama so the rover doesn’t take any false steps (or treads) on the often treacherous terrain. Nevertheless it additionally seems up occasionally, to offer NASA scientists and the viewing public one thing to check and recognize.

Within the current photograph—taken on January 29, or Sol 691 of the mission—a Martian dawn looms from behind the diffuse cloud cowl. The clouds are very skinny due to how little water there’s within the Martian ambiance; in keeping with a NASA launch, if all of the atmospheric water on Mars had been on the planet’s floor, it could type a layer thinner than a strand of human hair.

The clouds aren’t any risk to Perseverance—the primary subject Martian touchdown craft face is Martian mud, which clings to their photo voltaic panels, stopping them from charging up—however they do make a pleasant case examine for the rover’s instrumentation.

Perseverance’s predominant job isn’t cloudspotting. The rover landed on Mars on February 18, 2020, to higher perceive Mars’ geological historical past and hunt down potential indicators of historic life. To that finish, the rover is accumulating rock samples from the planet which NASA intends to retrieve in an formidable mission slated for the early 2030s. The rover completed its pattern depot on Mars earlier this week.

Besides its suite of instruments for finding out the Martian floor, the rover does have some devices for understanding the ambiance. The Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer screens clouds and the way they scatter and altogether block photo voltaic radiation arriving to the planet’s floor.

Extra: Perseverance Rover Photos Reveal Historical Historical past of a Water-Soaked Martian Crater

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