NASA’s Curiosity Rover captured incredible photos of strange wispy clouds on Mars over the Gale Crater. The clouds, which began appearing in the late part of January, occasionally provided a colorful sky show because of the ice-rich clouds catching the sunlight.
In a NASA statement, Mark Lemmon, who is an atmospheric scientist with the Space Science Institute in Colorado, described the clouds, “I always marvel at the colors that show up: reds and greens and blues and purples,” adding, “It's really cool to see something shining with lots of color on Mars.” They are the most colorful just after sunset on Mars when the last light of the day causes the ice crystals to glow different colors – this is called noctilucent (or night-shining).
While clouds have previously been spotted on the Red Planet, this year they were a lot different as they were located at a much higher altitude, indicating that they were made up of frozen carbon dioxide (or dry ice). And they showed up earlier than expected (in late January). Pictures of the clouds can be seen here.
In other space news, Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft found that the Ryugu asteroid contains rocks that are over 70% porous (in one area of the asteroid, the boulders were between 72% and 91% porous). In other words, the rocks could hold remnants from the early Solar System. They found two spots on the asteroid that contained a group of boulders – one group was located close to the center of a crater measuring about 9 meters in width (30 feet). The study was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Another interesting space story is that NASA’s Juno spacecraft has captured stunning new close-up images of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. Juno just made the closest approach to our Solar System’s largest moon since the year 2000 and the photos do not disappoint.
The first two pictures that were taken on June 7th have been released and they show incredible detail of the moon’s surface that includes craters and long structural features (may be part of tectonic faults) as well as dark and bright terrain.
One of the photos was especially interesting as it was of the moon’s dark side located on the opposite side of the sun. Interestingly, there was a dim light caused by Jupiter. Additional images from the flyby will be sent back to Earth in the coming days. I know that I personally can’t wait to see them! The first two photos can be seen here.