NASA took a break from its robotic Mars explorers a few weeks ago in order to wait out the Mars solar conjunction, a natural occurrence that would have interfered with their communications. The Curiosity rover had been put in park prior to the halt, but its Hazard-Avoidance Cameras (Hazcams) continued to collect pictures. In a first for the rover, Curiosity captured its own shifting shadow on the planet as the sun moves from dawn to nightfall, recording the passage of a Martian day over 12 hours from its fixed position. It saved the pictures until November 25, when the conjunction came to an end.
According to NASA, Curiosity was instructed to record the 12-hour sequences a few days prior to the conjunction starting in mid-November. The purpose was to test its ability to detect potential weather occurrences. Even though it didn’t work out, Curiosity’s November 8 photos are still quite captivating. Two films that combine the views from its front and rear Hazcams have been assembled from them.
Hazcams on Curiosity are typically used to assist drivers in avoiding terrain that may pose a threat to the rover. However, the cameras were free to take in some sightseeing when the rover was parked ahead of its November 11–November 25 duty pause. From 5:30 AM to 5:30 PM, Curiosity recorded from its location at the foot of Mount Sharp on Mars. Since then, it has returned to its regular activities along with the other Mars explorers.