If you saw the sunset UranusThe sky would start out as a brilliant blue and fade into deeper blues with striking turquoise notes. So how do we know that?
Gerónimo Villanueva, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, visualized what the sunsets look like on Uranus (at the 1-minute-43-second mark in the video above), as well as on Earth, Mars, Venus, and Saturn’s largest moon Titan while building a computer modeling tool for a possible future mission to Uranus. This tool is being developed with the ultimate goal of perhaps someday taking it through Uranus’ atmosphere to study the atmosphere in person, according to a NASA statement.
But for now, because sunsets occur with planets that spin away from the light of their star (in our case, the sun) and during this process, photons (light particles) scatter in different directions depending on the types of molecules in the atmosphere. Simulations are a valuable tool for exploring distant atmospheres.
Using known information about the atmospheres of these worlds, Villanueva created a set of sky simulations that show what the sunset would look like on these worlds. In the animations created from these simulations, sight is what you would see if you were looking at the sky from these worlds through a wide-camera lens, with a white dot representing the location of the sun.
While, in this simulation, the sunset at Uranus is a stunning blue-toned ombre, the sky in Venus It changes from dull yellow to muddy brown, the sky on Mars appears as a greyish-brown spectacle, and Titan’s changing sky changes from vibrant orange-yellow to deep, burnt orange.
These sky simulations are now part of an online tool known as Planetary spectrum generator, which was developed by NASA scientists Goddard (including Villanueva). With this generator, scientists can simulate how light moves through the atmospheres of objects ranging from planets to comets. With this tool, scientists can explore the atmospheres of distant worlds and rocky objects and better understand their surfaces and atmospheres, according to the same statement.
Email Chelsea Gohd at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom and in Facebook.