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Exploratour - The Atmosphere of Mars

This is an image showing a Martian sunset.
Click on image for full size
JPL/NASA

A Look at the Martian Sky

The sky of Earth is blue. But, as shown in this image, on Mars, the sky is darker with a slightly pink overtone. This is very different from the Earth!

The light in the atmosphere comes from the Sun, but to reach the ground it has to pass through the molecules of the air, sort of like a football player running through the opposing players. Molecules of air are almost the same size as light waves. When the light waves go through the air, they hit molecules. When they hit molecules, they get deflected in all directions; forward, sideways, and backwards.

Sunlight appears to have no color at all, but it is actually a mixture of all of the colors of the rainbow. Air molecules deflect some colors of light better than others. Blue light is deflected the most and red light is deflected the least. Since the blue rays of lights are deflected the most, they reach our eyes from all directions and we see more blue than any other color. On Earth, this means that the sky looks blue.

On Mars, the thin atmosphere means that light passes through without being deflected as much, so the sky is darker than on Earth. Also, the atmosphere of Mars contains a lot of dust. The many rust-colored dust particles in the atmosphere contribute to the pink color of the sky.

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Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games section of our online store includes a climate change card game and the Traveling Nitrogen game!

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Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

Even though the sleeping man is no longer on the bed, you can still see where he was lying down. The heat from his body warmed up the bed sheets which are now radiating infrared light toward your eyes....more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

All warm objects (not just people) radiate in the infrared. Warmer objects give off more infrared radiation. Very hot objects radiate other types of light in addition to infrared. Click on the picture...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

Your eye is a wonderful detector of visible light. Different frequencies of light produce different sensations in the eye which we interpret as colors. Our eyes detect light by using light sensitive components...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

Imagine you found a pair of special glasses that not only gave you telescopic vision but gave you the ability to see all forms of radiant energy. The universe in visible light contains all the familiar...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

This is a volcano on the island of Miyake in Japan. It has erupted, sending hot lava and ash into the air, a total of ten times. The time after one eruption until the next occurred was about twenty years...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

This is a picture of a galaxy in visible light. A galaxy is a large number of stars, some like our sun, some bigger, some smaller and all moving together through space. This galaxy is called Centaurus...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

This is a plant in Gary, Indiana where power is made. We use power to run things like television sets, radios, lights, and microwave ovens. The picture looks very strange because it was taken in infrared....more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA