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Watch the clouds on Mars glide by in this Curiosity Rover video

By Mike Wall
May 31, 2019, 7:09:14 PM EDT


Like the rest of us, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover likes to watch the clouds roll by from time to time.

The car-size robot craned its neck skyward on May 7 and May 12, capturing gorgeous imagery of wispy clouds scudding through the Red Planet's atmosphere.

The clouds seem to lie about 19 miles (31 kilometers) up and are likely composed of water ice, NASA officials said. Cirrus clouds here on Earth are also made of water ice, but that doesn't mean the two planets' atmospheres are similar; Mars' air is 100 times thinner than that of Earth and is dominated by carbon dioxide, with just tiny traces of oxygen. (Earth's atmosphereis 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and trace amounts of various other substances.)

mars clouds

(Photo/NASA JPL-Caltech)

Curiosity wasn't just killing time or recharging its metaphorical batteries here. Mission scientists hope to learn a thing or two about Mars' atmospheric dynamics, especially after comparing Curiosity's observations with those gathered by NASA's InSight lander, which is camped out about 373 miles (600 kilometers) away.

"Capturing the same clouds from two vantage points can help scientists calculate their altitude," NASA officials wrote Wednesday (May 29) in a description of the newly released imagery.

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