NASA’s Curiosity rover has sent back stunning images of a blue sunset on Mars, the result of perfectly sized dust particles suspended in the Martian atmosphere.
The images were taken from the Curiosity rover’s Mast camera and were captured between dust storms on April 15, according to Space. NASA asserts that the photos represent the first time that Curiosity has recorded a sunset on the surface of Mars in color, and in high definition.
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Since Mars is commonly known as the Red Planet, observers may be surprised at the blue color of the sunset. According to Curiosity science team member Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, the blue tint is the result of dust particles in the martian 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,” he noted in a statement. “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.”
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The images, while stunning, have also allowed researchers to examine the vertical distribution of dust in the atmosphere of Mars, as CNET notes. Captured over the course of just under seven minutes, the photographs were originally sent back to Earth in black and white, encoded in greyscale with a Bayer matrix, which is used to document color by digital cameras. The Mastcam actually captures color in much the same way as the human eye, though it is less sensitive to blue than most people, according to NASA.
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Curiosity has sent back a multitude of images since it arrived on the surface of Mars, as the Inquisitr has previously reported. Some of those photos have revealed details of the surface that have proven irresistible to UFO observers, who claim to see evidence of alien life and a variety of objects in the images.
In 2010, the Opportunity rover sent back several photos of a Martian sunset, which NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory compiled into a video, documenting observations from November 4 and 5, 2010. The recent images from Curiosity, however, reveal the first view of a blue sunset on Mars taken from that particular rover at the base of the three-mile-high Mt. Sharp.
[Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via ABC News]