NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter sees a beautiful sunset on Mars
Sunsets offer some of the most beautiful natural images anywhere on earth. People flock from all over to see sunsets in specific locations at specific times e.g. B. when perfectly aligned on a Manhattan street. But sunsets on other planets wouldn’t be nearly as spectacular.
You couldn’t even see it on Venus, where the sulfuric acid clouds would completely obscure the event. And on Mercury it would last an excruciatingly long time, not to mention that its sheer intensity would blind you if you tried to observe it. The gas giants further out in our solar system suffer from the same problem as Venus – their clouds completely obscure their surface.
Then there is Mars. The Red Planet has an atmosphere so thin that the Sun makes it to the surface, and its rotation rate is close enough to Earth’s that something like an Earth sunset approaches every 24.5 hours . We have started collecting various images of these events from our robotic vanguards that we have sent out to explore. And now one of the newest members of this group provides a new image that shows how similar sunsets on Mars are to those on Earth.
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Ingenuity, the helicopter that launched on the Perseverance rover and has now been on Mars for almost two years, has completed over 45 flights at the time of writing. Some of these flights have even been captured by Perseverance, which also occasionally catches glimpses of its flying companion on the ground awaiting its next launch.
On February 22, 2023, the day of its 45th flight, Ingenuity captured an image of the Sun as it approached a dune on the Martian horizon. It used its high-resolution color camera, in which the sun appears almost white as it would in space. An artifact of the imaging process makes it appear as if real rays of sunlight are falling on the dune’s surface.
There are plenty of other images of sunsets on Mars, some of which we’ve covered here. But there’s also something new and different about each that emerges. Until humans travel to the Red Planet for the first time, our robotic messengers will be our only way to experience these phenomena. Hopefully Ingenuity can deliver more before the end of its mission.
NASA – Mars Helicopter Sol 714: Color Camera
Subtitles – What distinguishes the sunsets on Mars from those on Earth?
Subtitles – Curiosity captures the movie Phobos Rising and the sunset on Mars
UT – Sunrises over the solar system
Mars sunset captured by Ingenuity.
Credit – NASA/JPL-Caltech