In just 8 days, that hexagonal piece of equipment installed on the InSight lander changed its general appearance from dull to shiny copper (see image 1 and 2). How is it possible?

enter image description here Img. 1. Nov 26, 2018, Mars, InSight lander.

enter image description here Img. 2. Dec 4, 2018, Mars, InSight lander.

Explanation, That question with answers, that were also suggested as answers for my question, does not explain the radical change in appearance from dull to shiny cooper. I see there a discussion about an optical illusion unrelated to my question.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Just different lighting. $\endgroup$
    – Cornelis
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 17:42
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I assumed this was an attempt by the poster of the "of Why does the Mars InSight Lander look wet like a cardboard box " question to get his troll argument started again with a different user name, due to the similarity of wording. On second thought, that may not be the case. Retracting my downvote for now. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ Where did you find that second image? It doesn't seem to be in the raw image archive. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ TL;DR photoshop is a wonderful thing. $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 20:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Voted to reopen. It's not a duplicate. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 8:51

1 Answer 1


The orange object is the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), which is a shiny metal box covered in orange Kapton film. Here's another image:

enter image description here

Comparing that to your second image you see the color balance of the entire image is different. It looks like your second image has been color-corrected.

The source for your image confirms that:

The color-calibrated picture was acquired on Dec. 4, 2018 (Sol 8).

The lander contains a calibration plate (see JCRM's answer) which is used to color correct photos: we know what this object should look like, so we can apply a correction factor to make this object match its known colors.

Due to Mars' different atmospheric composition, colors look different compared to Earth. This means there are different ways you can treat the same photo.

enter image description here

The top image shows a valley on Mars as you might see it if you were standing there. The dusty haze of the Martian atmosphere makes the ground appear browner than it really is. The bottom image is “white balance” color corrected to remove this effect and show the inherent colors of the rocks and sand.


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