Since the beginning of exploration on Mars, sunsets on the Red Planet have been recorded in several regions. While it is difficult to accurately describe what a person sees at sunset there, images from robotic missions help us get a good idea. It’s just that even the most modern cameras, like those used by Perseverance, can have inaccurate colors. That’s because blue, distributed in the part of the atmosphere closest to the sun, is more difficult to pick up on devices.
Each day on Mars (called the Sun) lasts 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth. This means mission operators need to adjust their sleep schedules according to the length of Mars days. To reduce the impact, several of them take turns, which helps to maintain constant supervision of the vehicles.
Photographing a sunset on Mars is more than just an “artistic” exercise. Since Mars is farther from the Sun than Earth, our star there is less bright and appears to be only two-thirds of the diameter shown here. Scientists photograph the sun on Mars to better understand the red planet’s atmosphere – and even all the other worlds in the solar system.
sunset pictures on mars
The first sunset we don’t forget…
The American rover Viking 1 was the first mission to safely land a probe on Mars and send images back to Earth in August 1976. So it stands to reason that it was also the first mission to photograph a sunset on Mars. Scale in the sky is an artifact produced by the camera’s increased brightness levels, and thus is difficult to remove without deleting some of the original information.
The above image was taken by the spacecraft at Chryse Planitia. At the time, NASA probes were conducting biological experiments to look for possible signs of life. Here, the sun is two degrees below the local horizon, so we only see the residual glare. In other corrected versions of the image, the yellow color is replaced by blue and the reddish hue is replaced by the shadow of the night that was already falling at that moment.
…but the second one is beautiful too
The panoramic image above was taken in 1997 by the Mars Pathfinder mission, which NASA launched the previous year and took with it. Sojourner, the first rover Walking across the surface of Mars. In fact, this was the first mission to land on Mars since the Viking program, which landed two probes there in 1976.
Sunset at Gusev Crater
The above image was taken by the Spirit robotic probe, in Gusev crater, on May 19, 2005. The mission objective was to search for evidence of ancient life, where the crater was a lake, long ago. The colors in the image have been slightly “amplified” to approximate what human eyes can see. This reddish apparent mist is actually Fine dust particles suspended in the atmosphere. There is still a bluish glow, because the dust also scatters the light of that color.
Almost a video of Mars sunset
fixed unit insight, which is expected to be discontinued soon, used an instrumentation diffusion camera (IDC) attached to the end of its robotic arm to film this sunset. The colors are devoid of blue, but according to NASA, the human eye will see something similar to the version below, where the colors have been corrected.
Curiosity presents the true colors of a Martian sunset
This was the rover’s first colored sunset. Curiosity of, is still active. This time around, not much was needed to make the image more similar to what the human eye sees, as the Mastcam is capable of capturing colors in a very similar way to what we see.
The difficulty in capturing the color blue in these images is that sunlight scattered by dust through the atmosphere is red and yellow. Although the particles allow blue wavelengths to pass through, this color is in the part of the sky closest to the sun. Also, blue is more visible during sunset, when sunlight travels a longer path in the atmosphere than at noon.
This view was also photographed by Curiosity at the edge of Gale Crater in June 2013. The mosaic was compiled from MastCam images in true colors and the Martian sky has a very subtle blue halo just above the sun. The image was later reconstructed from data from the real images, and only the position of the sun changed because the original image was overexposed.
The role of perseverance
The rover, NASA’s last mission to land on Mars, captured this panoramic image with the Right Mastcam-Z camera located at the top of the rover’s mast. Registration begins on November 9, 2021, and the abundance of information in the photo has already allowed for some interesting editions, which were prepared by experts in editions and published on the Internet.