Estimating the Altitudes of Clouds at the Mars Science Laboratory Landing Site
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Using the Navigation Camera, the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) Rover images the atmosphere to capture clouds. A Zenith Movie (ZM) consists of eight upward-pointing images taken over five minutes. The angular distance and wind direction are measurable, but without a lidar the altitude is not. Instead, parameters are compared with results modelled by the Mars Regional Atmospheric Modelling System (MRAMS). An altitude is estimated with the half-normal probability distribution to evaluate the probability MRAMS has similar conditions to observational values. Throughout a sol, clouds were predicted below the crater rim and planetary boundary layer, but higher altitude clouds were primarily predicted in the morning. Results are compared to ice extinction data from the Mars Climate Sounder (MCS) and a shadow movement across Aeolis Mons through a Cloud Height Movie (CHM). Pairing a ZM with a CHM allows direct measurement of the altitude of clouds for the first time from the surface.