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NASA’s Curiosity captures blue sunset on the Red Planet

NASA’s Curiosity rover captures a Martian sunset. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Last month, NASA’s Curiosity rover captured a blue sunset on the Red Planet. The sight was poetic enough to inspire the rover to quote T.S. Eliot in a tweet.

While positioned in the Gale Crater on April 15, 2015, Curiosity sent back four images of the deep blue sunset that were taken by the rover’s Mast Camera. The images were captured over a nearly 7-minute period in-between dust storms.

“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, a Curiosity team member, in a statement Friday.

“When the blue light scatters off the dust, it stays closer to the direction of the sun than light of other colors does,” he said. “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.”

NASA said this was the first time Curiosity observed a sunset in color and that the rover’s MastCam “is actually a little less sensitive to blue than people are.”

Curiosity has been analyzing Martian soil samples since August 2012 to determine the planet’s habitability for microbial life and to gather data that will inform future Mars exploration missions. In November 2010, Mars rover Opportunity’s panoramic camera also captured a blue Martian sunset.

Video by NASASolarSystem

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