On April 4, NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover snapped a photo that seemed to include a rainbow stretching across the Martian sky. Shortly after the image was first published, it spread quickly across social media platforms, Space.com reports, as did theories about how the rainbow came to be.
Some Twitter users erroneously posited that the arc was a “dustbow” made from light reflecting off the fine dust particles on the red planet’s surface. On April 6, the NASA Perseverance Rover twitter account stepped in with the real story.
The “rainbow” in the photo is actually a lens flare, CBS News reports, something that occurs when light hits the camera lens at a certain angle.
NASA’s tweet stated:
Many have asked: Is that a rainbow on Mars? No. Rainbows aren’t possible here. Rainbows are created by light reflected off of round water droplets, but there isn’t enough water here to condense, and it’s too cold for liquid water in the atmosphere. This arc is a lens flare.
Many have asked: Is that a rainbow on Mars? No. Rainbows aren't possible here. Rainbows are created by light reflected off of round water droplets, but there isn't enough water here to condense, and it’s too cold for liquid water in the atmosphere. This arc is a lens flare. pic.twitter.com/mIoSSuilJW— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) April 6, 2021
While the red planet might not have rain or rainbows, there could be an ocean’s worth of water particles trapped under its surface, as previously reported by the Deseret News.
Perseverance landed inside Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, which is thought to be a dried-out lake bed, The Verge reports. As Perseverance retrieves soil from the area, the samples could help verify that the planet has an abundance of hydrated minerals.
Before the rover starts digging for minerals, CBS News reports that Perseverance is currently preparing to watch NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter take flight. The small copter was recently deployed from the rover’s undercarriage and could take to the skies as early as April 11, Space.com reports. Perseverance will record the historic event as it unfolds.