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The Star Wars saga begins with sunset on Tatooine, a planet with two suns. More than 40 years after estrenase that movie we know that it is likely that somewhere there is an exoplanet similar. While we studied how are these distant worlds, we already have a very precise idea on how it would be to see the sunset on the planets of the solar system.
Geronimo Villanueva, a scientist at the planetary Space Center NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, Maryland (united States), has developed a tool to simulate how are the sunsets from the other planets , exoplanets, moons, and comets, to which he has called “Planetary Spectrum Generator”. This system collects information gathered by a multitude of observatories, and allows researchers to obtain data very refined on the composition of the atmospheres.
In the beginning, however, its purpose was to simulate what happens on Uranus, to understand the composition of its atmosphere, and to prepare a future mission of exploration, such as has been reported by NASA in a press release.
Villanueva has created a tool that makes it possible to simulate the setting Sun on any world , changing information such as the type of star, the distance or the angle in which it is located.
Sunset on exoplanets
In these simulations, the color not only reflects the composition of the atmosphere of each one, but also the effect that occurs as the Sun moves towards the horizon, as a result of the rotation of these planets.
as that happens, in a process known as a sunset, the photons of the rays of light are deflected in different directions, in function of their energy (wavelength), and the composition of the atmospheres. The result is a palette of colors unique in each world .
In the Earth this leads to that, during the sunset, the sky pass to be dominated by the blue light, to be enriched with shades of yellows, oranges and reds. But on Uranus, where NASA wants to launch a mission this decade or the next, the evening would be very different. The sky would be very rich in celestial blue to be dominated by the royal blue , with touches of turquoise, due to the presence of hydrogen, helium, and methane in the atmosphere.
in Addition to the chemical composition of the atmospheres, the effect of dust and haze in suspension can transform the color of the sunsets. This is more than evident in the Earth, where no two sunsets are the same, and also on Mars, where the dust reflects the blue very effectively and the sunset makes e sky moves from blue to brown.