Featured Image: Celebrating Planetary Missions Past, Present, and Future


To celebrate today’s successful touchdown of NASA’s Insight lander on Mars (yay!), today we’re featuring this haunting image of a Martian sunset, captured by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit on May 19, 2005. This image is included in a new publication led by Jason Barnes (University of Idaho) that explores the conditions that may exist at twilight and sunset for a future mission — this time landing not on Mars, but on Saturn’s moon Titan.

The New Frontiers Phase-A mission concept Dragonfly is a proposed relocatable rotorcraft lander that could be sent to Titan’s surface to study prebiotic chemistry, assess water-based and hydrocarbon-based habitability, and search for potential chemical biosignatures. In their study, Barnes and collaborators use models to determine the type of lighting conditions such a lander could expect around sunset on Titan, which would influence what type of experiments the lander could do.

To learn more about this study, check out the original article below. And cheers to the successful exploration — past, present, and future — of the universe around us!


Artist’s impression of the Dragonfly mission concept, a relocatable rotorcraft that could land on Saturn’s moon Titan. [NASA]


“Titan’s Twilight and Sunset Solar Illumination,” Jason W. Barnes et al 2018 AJ 156 247. doi:10.3847/1538-3881/aae519