A post shared on Facebook claims to show the first-ever picture, purportedly taken in 2021, capturing a sunset on Mars.
The image shows an illustration, not an actual photo from Mars. The first NASA images of Martian sunsets were taken in the 1970s.
NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars in February and has since transmitted imagery of the red planet’s surface back to Earth. In recent days, multiple Facebook users have been sharing an image, purportedly the “first ever pic of the sunset on Mars,” that they date to 2021.
A reverse image search revealed the image is actually an illustration created by freelance illustrator and computer animator Mark Garlick, not a photograph capturing a sunset on Mars. It can be found on the Fine Art America website, where it is described in the caption as an “illustration of a sunset on Mars.”
“Dust and small particles suspended in the Martian atmosphere scatter light in the direction of the Sun forward,” the Fine Art America caption reads in part. “This creates a blue halo around the setting Sun, rendering a Martian landscape quite different from its terrestrial equivalent. It’s the same process as occurs on Earth, except that Mars’ atmosphere is much thinner.”
Garlick confirmed he created the illustration in an email to Check Your Fact, saying, “It dates from Dec 2018.” (RELATED: Does This Video Show Footage Captured By The Perseverance Mars Rover?)
“I made it using 3d software called 3DS Max, and finished it off in Photoshop,” he explained. “I came up with the idea because I was inspired by a real photo of a sunset on Mars.”
The Viking 1 Lander was the first NASA mission to transmit back images of sunsets on Mars, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). One of the first images of a Martian sunset, taken by the Viking 1 Lander in 1976, can be found on JPL’s website.
Other NASA landers and rovers have also captured images of sunrises and sunsets from the surface of Mars. For instance, the Spirit Rover captured a sunset in May 2005, and the InSight Lander took images of both a sunrise and sunset in April 2019.