Mars sunset photograph taken by Curiosity rover turned into gif

11 May 2015

In one of its first recordings, the Mars Curiosity rover has pointed its cameras to the skies of Mars and has, with the help of NASA, recorded a Mars sunset eerily reminiscent of one on Earth.

The footage beamed back from Mars was taken on 15 April this year, on the 956th Martian day of the Curiosity rover’s mission, and was taken from the planet’s Gale Crater.

According to NASA, it was the first sunset observed by Curiosity in colour and comprised of four images that have now been combined into the internet’s favourite image medium, a gif.

Taken with Curiosity’s left-eye mast camera (mastcam), the images’ colour was calibrated and white-balanced to remove camera artifacts. Mastcam sees colour very similarly to the way human eyes see, although it is actually a little less sensitive to blue than people are.

In the Martian atmosphere, fine particles of dust permit blue light to penetrate the atmosphere more efficiently than longer-wavelength colours.

As a result, blue colours in the mixed light coming from the sun stay closer to the sun’s part of the sky, compared to the wider scattering of yellow and red colours.

This effect is most noticeable as the Martian sunset approaches, when light from the sun passes through a longer path in the atmosphere than it does at midday.

Sunset on Mars gif

Gif of Mars sunset via NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A Martian sunset image via *cHARLIe 2112(^:*/Flickr

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic