NASA’s Perseverance rover recently took some time out of its busy Mars exploration to capture a striking image of the setting sun.
Snapped earlier this month and posted by the space agency in recent days, the image (below) shows an eerie glow behind Mars’ rocky landscape.
Perseverance, which landed on Mars in February, took the image using its high-tech Mastcam-Z camera, one of many such devices on NASA’s most advanced rover to date.
In comments accompanying the picture, NASA noted how the scene was a little different to what you might usually expect from a sunset on the faraway planet.
“Martian sunsets typically stand out for their distinctive blue color,” the agency said. “Fine dust in the atmosphere permits blue light to penetrate the atmosphere more efficiently than colors with longer wavelengths. But this sunset looks different: less dust in the atmosphere resulted in a more muted color than average. The color has been calibrated and white-balanced to remove camera artifacts.”
These aren’t the first images that Perseverance has taken with the Mastcam-Z camera over the past nine months. In October the rover captured an amazing panoramic view taken from inside Mars’ Jezero Crater. And soon after reaching the planet, it posted a multi-image selfie that lets you zoom in to view the rover in impressive detail.
NASA’s most ambitious Mars mission to date is searching for signs of ancient microbial life on the red planet and gathering rock samples for return to Earth via a later mission.
It’s also been testing the diminutive Ingenuity helicopter, which in April became the first aircraft to achieve powered, controlled flight on another planet. Ingenuity has so far performed 16 separate flights of varying difficulty. It’s hoped that a more advanced version of the machine will be able to assist rovers on future planetary expeditions, scouting locations for exploration and mapping the ground using high-definition cameras.