Fun Stuff Videos

NASA Scientist Simulates Sunsets on Other Planets

To the 110 volunteers who are needed to settle a Mars colony, what you see above is how a sunset on Mars looks like.

Do not read everything on the linked scientific paper. You just need to know this conclusion on how many people we would need to successfully settle Mars:

The minimum number of settlers has been calculated and the result is 110 individuals. Other assumptions can be made. The proposed method allows assessments and comparisons, opening the debate for the best strategy for survival. If this relatively low number is confirmed, survival on another planet might be easier than expected, provided that the organization of the settlers is appropriate.

So, there you go. 110 may be the new Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything — and not 42, as readers of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy believe.

But, coming back to our subject of sunsets, how do we know how a sunset on Mars looks like?

Well, it’s all thanks to a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center called Geronimo Villanueva. While building a computer modeling tool for a possible future mission to Uranus, he also ended up creating simulations of sunsets as viewed on the surface of some of the other planets of our Solar System.

How do we know the simulations are correct? Well, he applied his simulatiions to Earth itself and it came out pretty accurate, so that gives us confidence that his models may be accurate enough for the photographers among the 110 settlers to know what to expect when the urge takes them to break out their camera for a sunset picture.

The computer animations in the following video show an all-clear all-sky views (no clouds, so no beautiful sunset colors) as if you were looking up at the sky through a ultra-wide-angle lens from Earth, Venus, Mars, Uranus, and Titan. The moving white dot in the video represents the location of the Sun.

The circles confused me at first, making me wonder whether I was looking at the planets from the sky or at the sky from the surface of the planets. It turns out to be the latter case, so forget the circles. A better video (w/o the circles, but with a typical horizon) is posted below:

Maybe, in the far-off future when interstellar travel has become reality, when a photographer buddy says, “Let’s go shoot a sunset,” you’ll reply, “On which planet?”

via NASA