First glimpses of a serene sunset on Mars

An amazing sunset on Mars has been released by scientists on a blue-tinged sky this morning as sent home to Earth by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. And the footage below will show you its beauty as the sun dips below the horizon.

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Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M Univ.

 

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Curiosity used its Mast Camera (Mastcam) to record the sunset during an evening of skywatching on April 15, 2015.

The imaging was done between dust storms, but some dust remained suspended high in the atmosphere. The sunset observations help researchers assess the vertical distribution of dust in the atmosphere.

“The colours come from the fact that the very fine dust is the right size so that blue light penetrates the atmosphere slightly more efficiently,” said Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, College Station, the Curiosity science-team member who planned the observations.

“When the blue light scatters off the dust, it stays closer to the direction of the sun than light of other colors does. The rest of the sky is yellow to orange, as yellow and red light scatter all over the sky instead of being absorbed or staying close to the sun”.

Just as colours are made more dramatic in sunsets on Earth, Martian sunsets make the blue near the sun’s part of the sky much more prominent, while normal daylight makes the rusty colour of the dust more prominent.

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Since its August 2012 landing inside Mars’ Gale Crater, Curiosity has been studying the planet’s ancient and modern environments.

 

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