Curiosity Shoots First Nighttime Photos on the Surface of Mars


NASA’s Curiosity rover quietly accomplished another photographic first today. This time it was the first nighttime photographs captured on the surface of the Red Planet.

The photographs were shot using the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera, with lighting provided by white and ultraviolet LED lights.

To ensure that everything is working properly, the rover first shot a couple of photographs of the calibration target found on its body. The photograph above is of the target illuminated by the white LEDs. Here’s the same target illuminated by the UV ones:


Brightening the photograph confirms that it’s of the same target:


After photographing the calibration targets, the rover turned its camera on the martian landscape. Sadly, it wasn’t of the landscape as a whole — we likely won’t be seeing any long-exposure star trail photos — but rather a small patch of rocks and dirt:



The photo shows an area of about 1.3-inches by 1 inch. The UV exposure required an exposure time of 30 seconds, and was shot to see whether the area had any fluorescent minerals.

You can find higher-res versions of the two photos above here and here.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Sam!

  • Jimmy Pratt

    I want to see some Mars star trails! That would be SICK

  • Liam

    New desktop background!!!

  • Ralph Hightower


  • Ralph Hightower

    If anyone can retrieve Curiosity from Mars and bring it back to Earth, it would be at least one penny!
    I love how NASA puts common everyday objects on its robotic explorers, the Lincoln penny for Curiosity.

  • /srcm

    30 seconds of exposure? Pfft, Nikon/Canon shoots at 1/1000 of a second at 500 000 ISO.

  • MikeAlgar42

    Think about it, no other star trail photo would have our own planet be one of the trails!

  • Fra Lippi

    Well it was a 1909 VSD so I wouldn’t call it “common”.

  • Dave Wilson

    I seriously hope this was just a bad joke.

  • bgrady413

    So, what was the point? To see if there were any flourscent material in a 1.3×1 inch area of rock on Mars? Seems like a huge non story to me, I am still hoping this thing finds the Notre Dame players girlfriend up there.

  • Coin History Natsie