A Distant Horizon

Martian Sunset

Martian Sunset


Still one of the most compelling images taken by the Spirit exploration rover, this photo of the Sun setting behind distant mountains was taken on May 19, 2005. (In reality the “mountains” are actually the rim of a large crater.) The color here is pretty close to what a person would see were they there.

The haze is caused by a large amount of fine dust in Mars’ atmosphere. This creates long twilights on Mars, and while scientists use photos like this to study the makeup of the thin atmosphere, we can enjoy them for what they are: beautiful images of a familiar sight on an alien world.

(This dust is currently coating some of the rover’s solar panels, reducing the power it can generate. It must wait for gusts of wind to help clear the dust off…or a rendezvous with the occasional dust devil.)

Because Mars is further away from the Sun than we are, it appears 1/3 smaller than it does to us.


Visit the Martian Exploration Rovers home page here.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Texas A&M/Cornell