Curiosity Rover Captures The Blue Sunset Of Mars

Mars Sunset

NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover has captured the best photos yet of the stunning blue sunsets of Mars:

More than three years after Curiosity first began its mission on Mars, the NASA rover finally had some time to observe — and photograph — its first sunset.

And yes, a sunset on the Red Planet is blue. Why? In simple terms, it comes down to dust.

“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,” Curiosity team member Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University said 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.”


The intensity of the sunset’s blueness is explained by the same principles at work to make a vivid Earth sunset, just with different colors. Light from a setting sun has to pass through the atmosphere on a longer path than it does at mid-day, NASA explains.

The blue color seen in the photographs is close, but not identical, to what a human on Mars would see while taking some time out of a busy day working on Mars to watch the sun set. If anything, NASA says, the MastCam’s lens is “actually a little less sensitive to blue than people are.”

The photographs were sent home on April 15, from the rover’s position in the Gale Crater. The images returned to Earth from Curiosity’s MastCam are in black and white but contain coded information that, when decoded, reveals color. Some, like Damia Bouic, were able to decode the colors contained within the image on their own. NASA released its own color image sequence on Friday.

More photographs, and an animation, at the rover’s website. And, I thought this Tweet from Curiosity was kind of nice too:

This isn’t the first time we’ve gotten a view of Martian sunsets, but the cameras are much more sophisticated this time.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Slugger says:

    Too cool! Thanks, NASA. Curiousity, long may you roll. Opportunity, keep on truckin’.

  2. John Peabody says:

    Very good!

  3. alkali says:

    who is teaching this rover poetry

    i’ve seen that ultron movie and this doesn’t end well believe you me

  4. Barry says:

    Thanks, Doug!

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:
  6. Tillman says:

    Just a reminder that NASA’s budget, which covers landing robots on other planets to take neat pictures and do other neat sciencey things, is almost constantly being gutted whenever it comes up because these sorts of missions take years to see fruition.

  7. anjin-san says:


    We don’t need that hippie science BS, the Bible tells us all we need to know.

  8. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: If you really wanna go there, let’s not forget that one of NASA’s top priorities now is Muslim outreach, not science… and that directive came straight from the White House.

  9. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Funny, when I pull up their actual priorities, I can’t find a single thing mentioning muslims:

    Oh, you mean that excerpt from a speech from half a decade ago?

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Well, you know, real Americans don’t do any of that Muslimy Outreachy stuff… Unless it involves a drone. We’re all about that.

  11. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    This was a nice, non-political thread that we could all enjoy, and annie just had to piss all over it.

  12. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Ah yes, Anjin was the one doing the pissing. Mmhmm.

  13. J-Dub says:


    And now he is a woman, which apparently you consider to be an insult.