What is a real color of Martian sky?

From time to time I read an article or some people are asking me, what is the actual color of sky on Mars. Is it red, brown, or blue?

Mars is a terrestrial planet, like our Earth. But the composition of its atmosphere, its thickness and the distance from the Sun, is different. All these factors are responsible for the color of the sky which we can see during a day on Mars.

Normal color of the Martian sky is this one:

This look back at a dune that NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover drove across was taken by the rover’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) during the 538th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Feb. 9, 2014). The rover had driven over the dune three days earlier. For scale, the distance between the parallel wheel tracks is about 9 feet (2.7 meters). The dune is about 3 feet (1 meter) tall in the middle of its span across an opening called “Dingo Gap.” This view is looking eastward. Image credit: NASA.

As we can see on picture above, the sky on Mars is a dull muddy brown. But this makes the colors on the surface pretty much all the same to human eyes. No matter what kind of rock you are looking at, it will look reddish brown to you. And this can lead to many confusions in the geological research. So the pictures are usually white balanced, to make the appearance of the rocks and surface features more different and more easy to analyze.

The same picture, but white balanced, we can see below:

The image above has been white balanced to show what the Martian surface materials would look like if under the light of Earth’s sky. Image credit: NASA.

Can you see more details now? I am sure that yes, and the same can geologists do.

Below you can see the different versions of the same photo. The left one represents the raw image as it was taken on Mars. The middle one represents the natural colors, like our eyes would see it and the right one represents the colors needed for analysis by geologists.

What is a real color of Martian sky?

Mars images – raw and processed. Image credits: NASA-JPL and MSSS.

Image sources and credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

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