Here's What Sunset Looks Like on Mars

5-11-15 Mars sunset
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of the sun setting at the close of the mission's 956th Martian day, or sol (April 15, 2015), from the rover's location in Gale Crater. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

One planet over from our own, the sunset takes on shades from the opposite end of the color wheel. On the red planet, the fiery oranges that characterize the transition between day and night on Earth are replaced with cool blues, as visible in a series of images from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover released Friday. Curiosity captured these images of a Martian sunset on April 15, the first it has ever taken of the phenomenon in color.

"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," Mark Lemmon, a researcher at Texas A&M University's Atmospheric Sciences department and a member of the Curiosity team, is quoted on NASA's website. "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 sky becomes most tinged in blue near the time of sunset, "when light from the sun passes through a longer path in the atmosphere than it does at mid-day," NASA explains, heightening the effect described by Lemmon.

NASA also released an animation of a sequence of four images captured in just under seven minutes.

5-11-15 Mars sunset animation
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover recorded this sequence of views of the sun setting at the close of the mission's 956th Martian day, or sol (April 15, 2015). The four images shown in sequence here were taken over a span of 6 minutes, 51 seconds. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Humans might one day have the chance to glimpse this kind of view in person, as NASA works toward the first human landing and eventually a sustained human presence on our neighboring planet. The sunset images were released just days after NASA announced its Journey to Mars challenge, in which it asks members of the public to submit detailed ideas for what would be required to create a long-term human presence on Mars.