NASA’s InSight lander views Martian sunrise, sunset
While NASA’s InSight Mars mission is primarily focused on collecting data from the Red Planet’s interior, the lander recently trained one of its cameras on the Martian horizon, capturing a series of sunrise and sunset images.
The sunrise shots were taken around 5:30 a.m. Mars local time on April 24, 2019, using the Instrument Deployment Camera on the end of the lander’s robotic arm. At about 6:30 p.m. the following day, the lander snapped photos of the Martian sunset.
“It’s been a tradition for Mars missions to capture sunrises and sunsets,” Justin Maki, InSight science team co-investigator and imaging lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a NASA news release. “With many of our primary imaging tasks complete, we decided to capture the sunrise and sunset as seen from another world.”
In addition to the sunrise and sunset images, InSight used its Instrument Context Camera, located below the lander’s deck, to record a series of images of clouds drifting across the Martian sky at sunset on April 25.
The first image of a sunset on Mars was taken by the Viking 1 lander on Aug. 21, 1976. Viking 2 captured a sunrise on June 14, 1978. More recent missions, such as the rovers Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity, have also taken images of sunrises and sunsets.
Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise. While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004. Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.
What’s interesting with these pictures is the sense that we are actually “there.” Incredible!