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NASA’s Curiosity rover snapped this dreamy timelapse of a Martian day

While parked ahead of a pause in duties for the Mars solar conjunction, Curiosity put its Hazcams to another use.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

A few weeks ago, NASA’s robotic Mars explorers were given some time off from hard work while the agency waited out Mars solar conjunction, a natural phenomenon that could interfere with their communications. Leading up to the pause, the Curiosity rover was put in park — but its Hazard-Avoidance Cameras (Hazcams) kept snapping away. In a first for the rover, Curiosity recorded the passage of a Martian day over 12 hours from its stationary position, capturing its own shifting shadow on the landscape as the sun moves from dawn to dusk. It held onto the images until after the conjunction ended on November 25.

A black and white gif of the Martian landscape and the shadow of Curiosity shifting with the sun
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity was given instructions to record the 12-hour sequences a few days before the conjunction began in mid-November, according to NASA. The idea was to see if it could catch any weather events that might crop up. That didn’t end up happening, but the images Curiosity snapped on November 8 are still pretty enchanting. They’ve been pieced together in two videos showing the view from its front and rear Hazcams.

Curiosity’s Hazcams are normally used to help drivers avoid terrain that could be dangerous to the rover. But with the rover parked ahead of its pause in duties from November 11 to November 25, the cameras were freed up for a bit of sight-seeing. Curiosity recorded from its position at the base of Mars’ Mount Sharp from 5:30AM to 5:30PM. It and the other Mars explorers have since resumed their normal activities.

A timelapse of a Martian day viewed by Curiosity's rear camera
NASA/JPL-Caltech