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Watch Clouds Drift Across Mars Sky in Eye-Popping NASA Rover Movies

Caution: These Martian cloud GIFs are super intense.

This GIF shows clouds in the Martian sky as seen by the Curiosity rover in December 2021.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/York University

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

Hey, hey, you, you, check out my Mars clouds.

NASA's Curiosity rover might be obsessed with rocks and geology at ground level, but it also takes time to see what's happening in the Martian sky. This week, NASA released a pair of GIFs to show us back on Earth what the clouds look like drifting across Mars.

While the first GIF shows a view that includes the Martian landscape, a second movie shows the clouds moving directly above Curiosity. Together, they tell a story. "Scientists can calculate how fast the clouds are moving -- and how high they are in the sky -- by comparing the two perspectives," NASA said.  

This perspective shows clouds drifting above the Curiosity rover on Mars in late 2021.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/York University

The images come from the rover's navigation camera on Dec. 12, 2021. The clouds were far away from Curiosity, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) above the red planet's surface. "It's extremely cold at that height, which suggests these clouds are composed of carbon dioxide ice as opposed to water ice clouds, which are typically found at lower altitude," NASA said. 

Curiosity is in residence in the Gale Crater on Mars. The rover has delivered some fascinating cloud observations since it landed in 2012, including views from last year of ethereal "mother of pearl" clouds that come in pastel hues. 

Mars is a very different place from Earth, but images like these show some of the haunting similarities between the two planets. I can relate to that feeling of wild wonder when a particularly striking cloud decorates the sky.