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A blue sunset on the Red Planet (+animation)

NASA's Curiosity rover has recorded the sunset on Mars, which is tinted blue because of the way dust in the Martian atmosphere scatters sunlight.

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NASA's Curiosity rover captured this view of the Martian sunset on April 15, 2015 from the rover's location in Gale Crater.


NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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Sen—NASA's Curiosity rover has recorded stunning images of the Sun setting on Mars from its viewpoint in the Gale Crater.

The rover's Mast Camera (MastCam), which sees color very similar to human eyes, captured the images on April 15, 2015. The animated sequence of four images shown below was filmed over a period of six minutes and 51 seconds.

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The images are the first time the robot has captured the Sunset in color. The blue-ish tint is due to dust particles which allow blue light to penetrate the atmosphere more efficiently than other colours of the spectrum. During the day the rusty red dust color is more prominent.

"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 in a statement. Lemmon, a member of the Curiosity team, added: "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."

The rover landed on Mars in August 2012 to search for evidence that the Red Planet may once have had conditions suitable for microbial life. The mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Animation of the Sun set recorded by NASA's Curiosity rover on April 15, 2015.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Related Links:

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Curiosity finds molecules useful for life on Mars

NASA's Curiosity rover spotted from Mars orbit

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