NASA’s Curiosity Rover Views Serene Sundown on Mars
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of the sun setting at the close of the mission’s 956th Martian day, or sol (April 15, 2015), from the rover’s location in Gale Crater. The sun dips to a Martian horizon in a blue-tinged sky in images sent home to Earth this week from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover.
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 colors 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 colors 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 color of the dust more prominent.
Since its August 2012 landing inside Mars’ Gale Crater, Curiosity has been studying the planet’s ancient and modern environments.
Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates Curiosity’s Mastcam. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, built the rover and manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.