Stargazing Curiosity rover captures images of Earth and Venus in Mars night sky
If you are big time into stargazing, don’t you get a thrill every time you spot Venus in the night sky? Well, American space agency NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, too, did some stargazing recently and captured images of not just Venus but of Earth as well!
The Curiosity rover camera, Mastcam, captured a shot of Earth and Venus around 75 minutes after sunset on the Red planet on June 5.
The two-image twilight panorama shows Earth in one frame and Venus in the other as mere pinpoints of light, according to a NASA statement. Scientists say the planets, which normally look like very bright stars, appear so tiny due to a combination of distance and the fact that it was taken where there was more dust in the air on Mars.
The brief photo session was partly to gauge the twilight brightness as during this time of the year on Mars, there’s more dust in the air to reflect sunlight, making it particularly bright, says Mastcam co-investigator Mark Lemmon of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
“Even moderately bright stars were not visible when this image of Venus was taken,” Lemmon said. “Earth also has bright twilights after some large volcanic eruptions.”
The high-altitude dust in the Martian air right now is also the reason that the colour and brightness of the sky in the present photo of Earth and Venus is significantly different from the one that the Mastcam captured of Earth and its Moon in 2014, NASA said.
The Curiosity rover was launched on November 26, 2011 and landed on Mars on August 5, 2012. Since its landing, the rover has captured blue Martian sunsets, passing asteroids, planet Mercury as well as Mars’ two moons – Phobos and Deimos – transiting across the Sun.