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lunes, 27 de diciembre de 2010

Blue Eclypse on Mars

Earth isn’t the only planet graced with gorgeous eclipses. On Nov. 9, the Mars rover Opportunity watched the larger of Mars’s two moons, Phobos, slip quietly in front of the sun.

This movie combines 10 individual photos taken every four seconds through special solar filters on the rover’s panoramic cameras. The video was made from images that were calibrated and enhanced, plus extra frames to make the movie run smoothly through the entire 32-second-long eclipse.

Phobos is too small to completely cover the sun, so Martians never get to see total solar eclipses like the one visible from the South Pacific this summer. Instead, astronomers call Phobos’s journeys across the face of the sun transits or partial eclipses.

Images of these transits taken many years apart can help scientists track changes in the moons’ orbits, which in turn gives information about Mars’s interior.

But for some Mars explorers, like Panoramic camera principal investigator Jim Bell, the spectacle of seeing events on Mars as if we were there is just as exciting as the science the images reveal.

“It reminds me of a favorite quote from French author Marcel Proust,” Bell said in a press release. “‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’”

Video: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Texas A&M

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