NASA's Insight lander snaps ghostly, hazy Mars sunset

A romantic sunset-for-one from the surface of the Red Planet.

Jackson Ryan Former Science Editor
Jackson Ryan was CNET's science editor, and a multiple award-winning one at that. Earlier, he'd been a scientist, but he realized he wasn't very happy sitting at a lab bench all day. Science writing, he realized, was the best job in the world -- it let him tell stories about space, the planet, climate change and the people working at the frontiers of human knowledge. He also owns a lot of ugly Christmas sweaters.
Jackson Ryan
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Watching the sunset over a vast, blue ocean is one of the most peaceful pleasures in life. 

But watching the sunset over a vast, red, endless desert might be just as good. Especially when that desert is over 150 million miles away

Thanks to NASA's InSight lander, which has planted itself in Mars' flat, smooth plain Elysium Planitia, you can do just that. The image above was snapped by NASA's most recent Mars transplant on March 10, the robot's 101st day at work on the Martian surface. Stitching a sequence of images by the lander's Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) shows the splendorous sun setting over the Red Planet and disappearing beyond the horizon.

It's not the first time we've seen the sun set on another planet, though. Largely thanks to the efforts of the Martian rovers, including recently-departed Opportunity, we've been able to watch the tiny, yellow orb sink behind the soil a number of times before. Curiosity watched this hazy, blue end-of-day back in 2015. And even earlier than that, Spirit watched the sun set over Gusev Crater all the way back in 2005. 

Sunsets on Mars are often tinged a pale blue thanks to the heavy dust in the Martian atmosphere. Mars also has an extra-long twilight period, compared to the Earth, because of the way that dust scatters light. You can see that unchanging twilight as you flick through the raw images from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

InSight is basically a stationary, interplanetary laboratory stationed on Mars to "check its temperature". It is kitted out with a number of instruments that will be able to detect Marsquakes, see how warm the interior of the planet is -- and of course -- just take a ton of awe-inspiring photos, too.

The Martian sunset is undoubtedly a wondrous, impressive vision, but now I'm getting all choked up thinking about InSight all the way out there, watching it dip behind the horizon alone.

NASA InSight lander rocks its journey to Mars: A view in pictures

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