NASA scientist simulates sunsets over other planets

Earth, Venus, and Mars all share the same sun, but due to factors like distance and atmospheric makeup, it looks different on every planet. This is especially true at sunset, when sunlight passes through more of a planet’s atmosphere. You no longer have to imagine what an alien sunset would look like: the video below, created by a NASA scientist, shows realistic simulations of different sunsets across the solar system.

Planetologist Geronimo Villanueva of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, came up with the idea while working on a computer modeling tool for possible Uranus missions. The model helps scientists study how sunlight interacts with the atmospheres of other planets. This data can tell us a lot about a planet’s chemical makeup, and as Villanueva found out when testing the tool, it can also show us what an otherworldly sunset looks like.

After modeling a Uranian sunset, Villanueva built simulations for the sky colors on Earth, Venus, Mars and Saturn’s moon Titan. In the clip below, you can see the celestial domes of the eight celestial bodies, as well as a hazy version of Earth. As the sun moves from horizon to horizon, the colors of each circle begin to change. On Mars, for example, the sky changes from brown to greyish blue because the fine particles of Martian dust in the atmosphere are effective at diffusing blue light from the sun when it is low in the sky.

Once you’ve watched this simulation, see what an eclipse of the surface of our planetary neighbors would look like.