Thursday, January 17, 2008

Revisting the True Colors of Mars

Back in October 2007 we posted a blog entry on the color correction problem NASA has historically had with images taken from the Martian surface. We deal with this specifically in chapter 11 of Dark Mission, and also posted articles on it on the Enterprise Mission web site several years ago.

As we showed in those articles, NASA has deliberately altered the colors of the images to make the Martian sky appear an absurd “Technicolor red,” when in fact all the evidence clearly shows that the true color of the Martian sky is (and must be) blue – just as it is here on Earth. In fact, when we used a simple color correction tool in PhotoShop called the Auto Levels tool, Mars came out looking as Carl Sagan described it after the first Viking images in 1976 – it looked like Arizona.


Now, even though we posted links to the earlier web articles showing the evidence for why Mars skies must be blue and not red, several readers apparently didn’t read those articles and continue to insist either that the color of Mars sky should be red, or that typical auto correction tools are not appropriate for this kind of analysis.

To wit:

“Unfortunately this kind of white balance color correction does not prove anything. It only shows what the Martian landscape would look like on a sunny day under an Earth sky. The only thing we can know for sure about the "corrected" Martian sky in that picture is that it is wrong. Both the color chart and the landscape reflect light, which gets corrected. The sky on the other hand is direct light. The only way to know for sure what NASA has been doing is if we had some direct light source on the rover for which the light spectrum was known … The reason for bringing the color chart to Mars is not to get a corrected picture, but to be able to correct for the Martian light conditions such that the stones can be seen in their true colors as if they had been brought back to Earth. That is a smart thing to do if you have geologists working on classifying the stones. But sorry, this kind of color correction alchemy will never tell us if NASA is fooling us or not.”


“… It would make no sense that the colour of the Martian sky should be blue. The atmosphere on Mars is completely different than the atmosphere on Earth. The light is also traveling a greater distance to reach Mars. I have found the following excerpt on a page which explains, in detail, why the sky is blue on Earth. The page also used Mars as an example to explain why the atmosphere must be the correct composition to result in the bluing of the sky:

“’…Notice that this argument depends very little on the composition of the atmosphere. Any clear atmosphere of more or less Earthlike size and density, lit by a sun whose light appears more or less white, would result in a blue sky.

“’The color pictures from Mars Pathfinder are a spectacular reminder that the sky is not blue on Mars. Instead, it has colors that have been described as everything from "orange-pink" to "gray-tan", as was discovered in the 1970s by the Viking landers. This is because the atmosphere of Mars is very thin and dusty, and atmospheric light scattering is dominated not by the molecules of gas (in the case of Mars, mostly carbon dioxide) but by suspended dust particles. These are larger than the wavelengths of visible light, and they are reddened by iron oxide, like Martian soil. It's not just Rayleigh scattering, so the power spectrum is different…”

There are only three things wrong with these evaluations; they’re wrong, they’re wrong, and they’re wrong.

First of all, as we clearly establish in the color article on the Enterprise Mission web site, the atmosphere of Mars is not “dusty” -- at least not all the time. The article contains several earth bound telescopic images as well as Hubble images and one from Mars Global Surveyor which all show that the scattered sunlight from the air glow limb of Mars is categorically blue. You can see them here, here and here. The fact that they are all blue effectively eliminates the “suspended dust” argument as an explanation for why the sky is red on virtually all NASA images taken from the Martian surface. Clearly, if there was optically significant red dust suspended in the atmosphere of Mars on a consistent basis, the repeated orbital and ground based telescopic photography would reflect this. They do not.

Further, as this NASA press release explains, even the planetary scientists at NASA expected the sky to be blue in the Pathfinder images. To quote: "If dust diffuses to the landing site, the sky could turn out to be pink like that seen by Viking ... otherwise Pathfinder will likely show blue sky with bright clouds.” [emphasis added].

We can also discount the presence of this reddish dust as a factor in the red skies of Mars by using another scientific methodology; simply looking at the shadows that are cast.

If there were vast quantities of reddish dust in the sky obscuring the direct sunlight, then the shadows cast by the rocks and hills would have to be diffuse and fuzzy. In fact, if you look at the majority of NASA surface images of Mars, the shadows are distinct and sharp, meaning the sunlight is not being significantly obscured or diffused – either by clouds or the mythical “reddish dust.” This constitutes an absolute, inviolable proof (based on fundamental optical physics) that “red dust” cannot be the reason that Mars skies appear red in so many NASA processed images.

Now, as to the other statement that “The only way to know for sure what NASA has been doing is if we had some direct light source on the rover for which the light spectrum was known …” Well, we have an answer for that one too.

The fact is, we do have a “direct light source on the rover for which the light spectrum is known...”

It’s called the Sun.

Since, as we’ve already established, dust and clouds are not a factor in the rover images we have posted, then the rover itself (and the color chart on it) are being subjected to “direct sunlight.” Since the Sun is a fairly common “G-class star,” its visible light spectrum is well known (see here). So, in the absence of significant diffusion caused by red dust or heavy clouds, we can expect that the surface of Mars will look pretty much like the surface of the Earth under the same direct sunlight. Therefore, using a tool like the auto balance feature in PhotoShop to correct the color chart so that it appears as it did on Earth is a perfectly valid technique, and one which should produce results that accurately reflect what objects on the surface of Mars truly look like.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. We're not the only ones to have reached this scientifically-based conclusion.

Ron Levin is the son of Viking Labeled Release Experiment Principal Investigator, Dr. Gil Levin. The younger Levin is an MIT-graduate physicist, currently working for Lockheed-Martin, who has, independently, carried out his own analysis of the "color anomalies" seen in the NASA rover images. Ron’s story of how he almost got kicked out of JPL in 1976 for correcting the color on the public monitors is told in Dark Mission.

In one recent paper on the NASA surface color imagery, titled "Color Calibration of Spirit and Opportunity Rover Images," Levin writes:

“... images of the [rover] color calibration chart taken on Mars for the express purpose of verifying calibration seem to be in reasonable agreement with calibration images taken on Earth under Earth-like illumination conditions. However, calibration charts shown inadvertently on production panoramic images are not compatible with those images made for the express purpose of calibration [emphasis added] ...."

In other words, NASA is deliberately altering the colors of the Martian surface and sky, as an examination of the color calibration charts shows.

Which is what we’ve been saying all along here.

Levin's detailed color analysis is presented here:

So, despite what our posters would like to believe, the “suspended dust argument” simply doesn’t fly (pun intended). The only significant factor in the color of the Martian sky is Rayleigh scattering, no matter what the person quoted in the post above wants to believe.

But what about Mars atmospheric density or composition, as the other poster mentioned? Doesn’t that affect Rayleigh scattering?

In a word; no.

Rayleigh scattering is a phenomenon that is a function of sunlight’s interaction with gas molecules of a given size in a planetary atmosphere. Whether those molecules are oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide or something else (like hydrogen or helium) makes no difference. All these molecules are basically the same size ... and thus will scatter blue light most effectively.

Nor does the “distance from the sun” make a difference in the spectra of light that is emanated from our Sun. The fact is the colors on the surface of Mars should look virtually identical to the colors on the surface of Earth to a human observer, because essentially the same direct sunlight is coming from the same sun and passing through a Rayleigh scattering atmosphere, exactly like it does on Earth. Only the intensity of sunlight on Mars is different because of the increased distance from the sun. The colors -- though the same -- are somewhat dimmer due to this minor decrease in total solar luminosity. But this affect is minimal: most sunny days on Mars are far brighter than an average cloudy day in Seattle, for instance.

And, as Dr. Levin points out in another paper on Mars color image calibration (, there is yet another “proof” that skies on Mars are blue, and not red. The source of this “proof” is also unimpeachable –

It is the Rovers themselves.

As Levin points out in his second paper, the current Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity (as well as their predecessor, the Pathfinder rover Sojourner), literally carry on their backs all the proof we will ever need that our thesis is correct. It comes in the form of the solar panels on the rovers themselves.

Unlike the earlier Viking landers, which were powered by a radioisotope thermo-electric generators (RTGs) fueled by plutonium – sort of a mini nuclear reactor -- the current generation of Mars explorers get their energy a completely different way. The Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity rovers are powered by solar cells that convert light from the sun and sky (i.e. both “direct” and “scattered” light sources) into electrical energy. However, this energy conversion is much more efficient in a specific part of the spectral bands that illuminate Mars, the blue and the green. Red light, in fact, is extremely inefficient for this purpose compared to blue and green light, and if the skies on Mars truly were as red as indicated by the official NASA photographs, this would have resulted in at least a 25% reduction in energy output from the rovers solar panels. This has not occurred on any of the missions (as determined by both direct telemetry of the minute-by-minute power-generation capabilities of all the rover solar panels, as well as monitoring of their overall power consumption curves).

As a result, we can now safely conclude that the skies on Mars must be predominantly blue, and not red.

We can further surmise that NASA technicians and engineers must certainly have known this well before the rover mission were approved, otherwise they would not have chosen to put solar panels on the rovers at all.
There is one final test which can be applied to prove the accuracy of all our technical assertions on this issue.

As it turns out, the sands of Mars are not red, as NASA has consistently asserted with their laughable color correction. In reality, the real surface of Mars tends to be more of flat yellow-red to salmon color, as many independent color corrections show. We can prove this by simply looking at some images of Mars when there is a lot dust suspended in the atmosphere – like during a major dust storm. When we examine these images, the atmospheric limb changes from a pure Raleigh scattered blue to an intense green (see here). As we all know from our experiences in finger painting in Kindergarten, you only get green by adding yellow to blue. Adding red to blue would produce not green, but purple or violet. So that means that the green scattered limb color is a result of yellowish dust interacting with a predominantly blue Rayleigh-scattered Martian sky.

What this also means is that if NASA’s color images from the surface of Mars were really an accurate reflection of a sky filled with dust, then that sky in virtually all the surface images would tend to be tinted green, not “Technicolor red.” Now, has anybody seen an official NASA Rover image with diffuse shadows and a green tinted sky, like a scene out of Forbidden Planet? If so, we’d like to see it.

So not only is our color correction technique scientifically valid, it is just one of many proofs reinforcing our most critical underlying assumption…

NASA lies.


  1. Jim Bell writes about color-correcting the Martian sky in his book[1]of Spirit & Opportunity photos. He explains that a shadow is deliberately thrown across the color calibration plate. Comparison of the sunlit and shadowed color patches enables sky color to be derived.

    A 2004 paper in Science[2]settled on the word "tawny" to describe the Martian sky, and that's a fair description of nearly all the images in Jim Bell's book.

    I don't think your argument about the solar panels is a good one. Direct light from the sun is what makes the majority of solar power, not diffused light from the sky.


    [1] "Postcards from Mars" Dutton, 2006; ISBN 0-525-94985-4

    [2] "Atmospheric Imaging Results from Mars Rovers" Lemmon et al., Science 306, 1753–1756. the abstract is here:

  2. I remember the pictures from TEM of the rovers being prepared on earth and how the yellow cabling covers changed drastically as photographed by the rover itself on the surface of Mars. I do not know exactly what light was overhead the rover that day on Mars, assuming it was the sun, why the stark difference? But is it not true that even in a vacuum that, to the human eye, colors look the same if the light source is the same? Of course then you debate the atmospheric composition of Mars that particular day, sun angle, diffraction etc.

    Mike can you link those to this post? I tried to find on TEM? That was something that was really striking to me. How could the cable colors be that different? Thank you.

    Also, as usual, expat I do not understand your post. Obviously you went to a different professor of literature than did I. You read the same post and comprehend something totally different than what meaning is implied. IE: solar panels

  3. drron: I'll spell it out, then, although Bara will almost certainly spike this as he has most of my contributions in the last week:

    Bara says that blue light is better for powering photovoltaic cells than red light. That's quite correct.

    He maintains that the spirit/opportunity engineers must have known the Martian sky is blue or they'd never have used photovoltaic cells as a power source.

    I'm saying that scattered light from the sky is a minority of the light received by the cells. The great majority is direct sunlight, which is independent of the color of the sky. Red dust in the atmosphere, and particularly red dust actually settling on the solar panels, is a real problem limiting the life of a Mars rover.

    Summary: photovoltaic cells are an efficient source of electrical power regardless of the color of the sky.

  4. I know this story already.

    Sure NASA lies. Why do you believe the Manned Missions to the Moon really happened ?

  5. Is RCH still saying there are Glass Tunnels on Mars when they have been identified as Lichtenberg figures ? They are being seen ALL OVER Mars and are predicted by the Electric Universe Theory.

  6. expat wrote:
    I'm saying that scattered light from the sky is a minority of the light received by the cells. The great majority is direct sunlight, which is independent of the color of the sky.

    So the majority of the light hitting the rover is direct sunlight?

    What this means is that all we need to settle this baloney is a colour reference - a calibration chart on Mars...For that would be all we need if the MAJORITY of the light is direct sunlight and that there is only MINOR scattered light from the sky.

    I hope Expat is correct on this...

    ...because he's actually agreeing with Mike for a change.

    I'm a cameraman and editor. You cannot argue with a known colour reference, especially if, as Expat says, direct sunlight represents the majority of the light hitting it....

  7. I'm agreeing that you get more energy from blue light than from red. I'm not willing to go the extra step, though, which is Bara's "the designers must have known the sky was blue, or they'd never have relied on photovoltaics as opposed to RTGs".

    Then there's a lot of additional theory that I don't feel qualified to comment on.

  8. I've got nothing against Jim Bell when he says that 'a shadow is deliberately thrown across the color calibration plate' for determining the colour of the sky. Unfortunately if your colour calibration plate is un-calibrated then so is the colour of the shadows.

  9. NASA has been PROVEN to lie for a loooong time.

    for those who still think NASA is the "true blue American Hero Agency" that will not lie to you...then the burden of proof is on YOU to prove ALL the evidence presented by a large number of researchers, including some WITHIN NASA ITSELF, are wrong and WHY they are wrong.

    You "NASA APOLOGISTS" you try and diffuse (lol) and transfer the argument AWAY from their PROVEN behavior and into unrelated material and mis-represented data that YOU trust only because it comes from the "Almighty NASA".

    Strawmen All.


  10. Question regarding the Message of Cydonia:

    I've always had a problem with the idea that anyone would construct such massive buildings for the sole purpose of conveying a message to someone in the distant future. That they would think in terms of someone discovering their buildings as future ruins, and decode their layout, as a message specifically intended for anyone.

    Wouldn't it be easier to think that any such potential Martians, or an antediluvian civilization, being aware of this kind of hyperdimensional physics, would have developed their own cosmically ergonomic architecture (for lack of a better phrase or word), that would be in tune with how nature and physics work?

    And that their containing this "hyperdimensional message" was merely the result of their having used the geometry of the universe to construct their buildings in a fashion that was in harmony with the geometry of hyper dimensional physics?

  11. "m" wrote: ...if your colour calibration plate is un-calibrated then so is the colour of the shadows.

    I dunno why you say that, squire (your spelling gives you away as a Brit -- NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT). The whole point of a colour calibration plate is that it's calibrated, innit?

  12. Regarding Disney's "Man and the Moon"

    After reviwing this film on YouTube, I noticed the "moon base" talked about in the book.

    But another scene intrigued me. In particular, the scene showing the crater whose depth could not be discerned, because apparently it was deeper than the instruments would allow for measure. In addition, the walls of the crater seemed higher and steeper than those of other craters as depicted in this film.

    Could it be possible, that they were prtraying some sort of entryway or exhaust port, since if I recall correctly, there were some experiments that suggested the Moon was hollow?

  13. the color chart on every lander, from Viking 1 & 2,Pathfinder, Spirit, & Opportunity, was put there for exactly the purpose of intent....
    to see the correct colors of it rocks, soil, sand,surface features, or the sky.
    without a doubt..NASA has deliberately altered the color of the sky on Mars, to a gharrish red, from blue.
    I am willing to bet, that there is alot more oxygen on Mars, than Nasa is letting on.

  14. jjrakman asked this question:

    "Wouldn't it be easier to think that any such potential Martians, or an antediluvian civilization, being aware of this kind of hyperdimensional physics, would have developed their own cosmically ergonomic architecture (for lack of a better phrase or word), that would be in tune with how nature and physics work?"

    I think a valid question. Consider this question in rebuttal: Did the builders of the Washington Monument have in mind a specific ideal in its design and location, relative to other structures and streets in the vicinity? Would they, by these efforts, seek to convey a message to those in the future that happened upon them, be it next Tuesday or in the next epoch? Then add to your answer the idea that ones who built these structures have a greater understanding of the seen and unseen universe than any of us.

    Also, you used the term antediluvian. How do you see that as relevant? Are you asserting that all of these things that appear as ruins in the solar system were built in that time frame and then abandoned? RCH is fond of saying that these structures are 100's of thousands of years old.

  15. jjrakman said...
    Space Visionaries Hope to Save Manned Space Exploration

    I do NOT mean to keep 'picking' on you jjrakman but everyone should KNOW by now that the BUSHes NEVER complete what they start.

    First Gulf war was to get Saddam out of Kuwait AND help the Shiites in the south...ques what...Georgie Sr left them stranded with NO air support as Saddam slaughtered thousands...and those WMDs...WE agve them to him...well georgie Sr did while he worked for Ronie Reagan to fight the Iranians.

    And Georgie Sr.'s great "Space Vision"...where di it go...same place Georgie Jr's plan is going...down the toilet..and you CANNOT blame Clinton. BOTH BUSHES cut NASA funding as percentage of GDP as the Wired article points out that Georgie Jr just did. And because of hageiographers who will re-write history they find SOME way to blame this on Clinton as well should Hillary get elected.

    Georgie Jr promised THIS Iraq war would be a cake walk and we would be showered with flowers...HA...showeed with bullets and turn Iraq into a have for's THAT for the "Doing a heck of job Brownie" President?

    At least Clinton COMPLETED his deeds...the evidence was left on the blue dress.

    The BUSHes have ALWAYS left messes for others to clean up after.


  16. If the results of the Chapel Bell experiment remain classified, can't they be brought forth with the FOIA? Perhaps the folks at Blackvault could be of help in this measure.

    In regards to "mechanical debris" brought back from the Apollo missions. Would we be able to determine, the payload capacity of a LEM? then determine how much of that capacity was filled? A weight perhaps? And from that filled capacity or weight, determine how much catalogued lunar "stuff" is currently kept here on Earth? Then essentially look for a discrepancy between the "stuff" we know of here on Earth, and the amount of "stuff" that was contained in the LEM or capsule on its journey home?

    If there's missing weight, or material, then it could bolster your argument that there's more "stuff" out there that was brought back than we have access to.

  17. We've not been able to find such weight data so far. But I like the way you think.


    Well, this picture from JPL NASA shows a blue sky. So maybe they have changed their ways.

  19. Not all the images are reddened up, but the vast majority of those intended for public consumption and press releases have been.

  20. The payload capacity of the LEM and/or capsule should be able to de determined from blueprints,

    The very fact that blueprints are "hard to get" means that there is something embarrassing and shameful here - WE NEVER WENT, BUT KEEP PAYING.

    The way we of a certain nation are expected to pay up simply because of an acronym - WW2

  21. When some guy builds a space drive in his
    garage, and puts in on the open market,
    we'll know the truth.

    I've been saying this for years.


  22. Great work!

    I'm duplicating your work -- utilizing a different (empirical) method for determining color.

    Emily Cragg, webmaster see Blog there for my Gallery of pictures.

    We ought to get together, I hope.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.