Addendum: press release is now available here.
The images being taken by the Curiosity rover on Mars have been amazing enough so far, but with one thing in common – they are all daytime images. Now, though, Curiosity has taken its first nighttime photos! These initial images were taken a couple of days ago, on sol 165. This is also the location where Curiosity will soon do its first drilling.
The rover has two white LEDs to illuminate a target to be photographed at night, like using a flashlight. There are also two UV LEDs, to illuminate a target in ultraviolet light, similar to a common “black light.” Both sets of LEDs are located on the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). The UV LEDs can look for flourescent minerals or other materials.
The rover also took nighttime photos of the sky, but as of yet there is still a lot of “noise” in these as-yet unprocessed images, making it difficult to tell exactly what are stars and what is just noise.
There should be a lot more images like these later on, as Curiosity becomes a nighttime photographer and astronomer. How cool is that?