Hot on the heels of its incredible achievement in early April – when it detected what scientists believe to be the first confirmed “marsquake,” as previously covered by The Inquisitr – the InSight lander is now treating us to another gem.
After focusing all of its attention on the Martian ground to listen for vibrations that could signal seismic activity under the crust of the red planet, the trailblazing NASA spacecraft has turned its sights toward the sky and captured some stunning views of the horizon. With its eye fixed on the Martian sky for the duration of one day – Sol 145 of the InSight mission – the lander snapped a mesmerizing batch of photos that show the sun rising and setting over Mars, NASA has just announced.
Unveiled today on the space agency’s website, the snapshots add to the impressive collection of sunsets and sunrises on the red planet taken over the years by many of NASA’s Mars missions, including the two Viking landers and the Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers.
“It’s been a tradition for Mars missions to capture sunrises and sunsets,” said Justin Maki, InSight science team co-investigator and imaging lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
“With many of our primary imaging tasks complete, we decided to capture the sunrise and sunset as seen from another world.”
The new Mars photos were taken last week, on April 24 and 25, with the help of InSight’s Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC), which is mounted on the lander’s robotic arm. One of the photos – snapped by the IDC instrument in the early hours of April 24, at around 5:30 a.m. Mars local time – reveals a gorgeous Martian sunrise, showing the glowing orb of the sun shining in the horizon right before climbing up on the sky.
Another photo, taken by InSight on April 25 at around 6:30 p.m. Mars local time, offers a striking glimpse of a Martian sunset as the sun is seen descending from the sky and slowly disappearing under the horizon.
“Much farther from Mars than it is from Earth, the sun appears only about two-thirds the size that it does when viewed from Earth,” explains NASA.
In addition to the beautiful images of the sunrise and sunset on Mars, the intrepid lander also managed to snag some spectacular views of the Martian clouds drifting across the sky at sunset. Just like the fabulous sunset photo, these snapshots were also captured on April 25 and were taken with the second camera fitted on the spacecraft. Known as the Instrument Context Camera (ICC), the instrument is installed on the body of the Mars probe, just below the deck, and is typically used to image the InSight’s “work-space.”
Aside from releasing the raw InSight images, the space agency also shared a color-corrected version of the photos, which more accurately shows the scenes as the human eye would see them.