NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars has captured a rare, beautifully eerie time-lapse video showing a full Martian day, from dawn to dusk. The footage gives viewers back on Earth an unprecedented opportunity to experience day and night cycles on another planet.
Curiosity Rover Celebrates 11 Years Exploring Gale Crater
The car-sized Curiosity rover landed inside Mars’ Gale Crater back in August 2012. Since then, it has been studying Martian geology and climate as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission.
Curiosity captures weather data each day using its meteorological station. But this new time-lapse video is the first Dawn-to-Dusk movie showing a full Martian sol (the equivalent of an Earth day) from start to finish.
Over its 11 years exploring Gale Crater, the rover has made many groundbreaking discoveries about Mars’ ancient habitability and geological diversity. This includes evidence that liquid water flowed on Mars billions of years ago, creating environments capable of supporting microbial life.
Time-Lapse Captured by Rover’s Mast Camera Over Sol 3507
The mesmerizing time-lapse footage was captured on November 26, 2022 (Sol 3507 of Curiosity’s mission) by the rover’s Mast Camera, or Mastcam.
272 individual Mastcam images taken over the course of the entire sol were stitched together by mission team members to create the video. The table below provides more details:
|Mars Sol Date
|November 26, 2022 (Sol 3507)
|Number of Images
|Total Imaging Time
As visible in the video, the first frame shows a predawn view facing east-northeast, towards the rim of Gale Crater. The brightening glow of sunrise then illuminates the terrain and sky.
Clouds drift by later in the sequence as the landscape passes from day through dusk. The last frames show the sky darkening back to night.
Rare Look at Full Martian Day Provides Insights for Exploration
Getting a start-to-finish look at an entire Martian sol is significant for NASA’s future human exploration plans for the Red Planet.
Understanding lighting conditions at locations where astronauts will eventually live and work will help mission planners figure out optimal power systems, surface operations, and more.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters, said of the new Curiosity video:
“This is the first time we’ve ever been able to see a sunset or a twilight at the equator of Mars. Every sunset and twilight provides science value, but it’s also beautiful. I hoping for more.”
What’s Next for Veteran Rover as it Climbs Mt. Sharp
The Curiosity rover may be getting older, but it shows no signs of slowing down scientific discoveries as it continues ascending Aeolis Mons (also called Mt. Sharp) within Gale Crater.
Over the next year, Curiosity will drill more rock samples from progressively younger geological layers higher up Mt. Sharp. This will provide further details about Mars’ ancient environmental transitions from wetter to drier eras.
Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada commented:
“Curiosity’s voyage up Mount Sharp is just getting going. We expect years more of great discoveries as we continue climbing toward the ancient lakes our spacecraft can see from orbit.”
With its robust suite of instruments still in good health, NASA expects the intrepid Curiosity rover to keep operating for many more years to come. It will continue revealing Mars’ secrets and paving the way for future human exploration of the mysterious Red Planet.
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