Dawn to dusk on Mars captured by NASA’s Curiosity rover

NASA’s Curiosity rover has captured a full day on Mars from sunrise to sunset in a 12-hour video sequence.

The rover captured it using its black-and-white Hazard-Avoidance Cameras, also called Hazcams.

Gif showing timelapse day on mars from rover
The rover’s shadow is visible on the surface in these images taken by the front Hazcam. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

A Martian day, called a ‘sol’, lasts 24 hours, 37 minutes and 22 seconds. The video did not reveal any interesting weather phenomena on that day but, taken from 5:30am to 5:30pm local time, it did capture the rover’s own shadow as it shifted across the sandy Martian surface.

It was taken on the 4,002nd sol of the rover’s mission. Described by NASA as the “largest and most capable rover ever sent to Mars”, Curiosity’s main purpose is to find out whether Mars ever had environmental conditions to support microbial life.

Curiosity’s Hazcams are normally used to spot and traverse rocks, slopes and other hazardous terrain as it studies the Red Planet’s surface. But Curiosity had reason to take it easy for a few weeks in time for the holiday season.

That’s because the Sun is currently between Earth and Mars. During this period, plasma from the Sun can interfere with radio communications, meaning missions hold off on sending commands to Mars spacecraft for a period of several weeks.

Given Curiosity would be resting, instructions to record the video were part of the last set of commands beamed up to the rover just before the conjunction.

Gif showing timelapse day on mars from rover
Curiosity’s rear Hazcam captured the shadow of the back of the rover in this 12-hour view looking toward the floor of Gale Crater. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Part 1 of the video looks southeast along Gediz Vallis, a valley found on the 5km high Mount Sharp, which sits in Gale Crater. The second video shows the view of the rear Hazcam as it looks northwest down the slopes of Mount Sharp to the floor of Gale Crater.

A small black mark in the 17th frame of the video was caused by a cosmic ray hitting the camera sensor. Later in the video, heat from the rover’s power system cause a bright flash and other noise.

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