Sunset from Mars: Why the Mars sunset is blue

What the sunset looks like on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity Rover photographed this view of the sun setting from its 956th Martian day on Mars. Notice that the sunset from Mars appears blue.

The above image actually consists of a sequence of four images captured over a span of 6 minutes, 51 seconds. Check out the full GIF below.

Said Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, College Station, who planned the Curiosity mission: “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.

“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.”

So cool, at least nearly as interesting as the heart-shaped craters also discovered on Mars.

Why is the Mars sunset blue?

Unlike Earth’s sunsets, Martian sunsets display an ethereal blue hue. Fine dust particles in the Martian atmosphere cause blue light to penetrate more efficiently, creating this intriguing phenomenon.

The blue light scatters and dominates as the sun sets, while other colors absorb or scatter in different directions. Mars’ unique atmospheric conditions create this breathtaking display, providing a glimpse into the planet’s distinctive weather patterns and atmospheric composition.

Sunsets on Mars versus Earth

AspectEarth’s SunsetsMars’ Sunsets
ColorOrange, red, pink, purpleEthereal blue near Sun, yellow to orange in the sky
AtmosphereNitrogen, oxygen, water vapor, pollutantsThinner, mostly carbon dioxide, fine dust particles
Effect of DustIntensifies colors, more vivid sunsetsScatters blue light, causes blue tint
Scattering PhenomenonRayleigh scattering, shorter wavelengths scatterBlue light penetrates more efficiently
SummaryWarm and vibrant huesCalming blue tones, unique atmospheric makeup

This article was originally published August 19, 2019. Updated August 23, 2023.

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