Sunset Watched by Opportunity, November 2010
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The sun descends to the Martian horizon and sets in this 30-second movie simulation using images from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. The movie includes images that have been calibrated and enhanced, plus simulated frames used to smooth the action.
The rover team uses the Pancam to view sunsets a few times a year, when rover power is adequate, as a way to monitor distribution and variability of dust in the lower atmosphere.
This movie builds on 17 individual photos of the sky around the sun taken through the Pancam's 440 nanometer-wavelength (blue), and 864 nanometer-wavelength (near infrared) filters, every 7.5 seconds during about 17 minutes of sunset on Opportunity's 2411th Martian day, or sol (Nov. 5, 2010). The sun's glare saturated parts of those images and so the moviemakers removed the glare and inserted a non-saturated image of the sun from the previous day's imaging using Pancam's special solar filter. They then supplemented this non-glare snapshot with interpolated frames to simulate the smoother motion of the setting sun.
The end result simulates watching the sun set on Mars using a good pair of dark sunglasses, with the whole event sped up to about 35 times the actual speed.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Texas A&M