Clip reveals rover's eye view of bluish Martian sunset (w/ Video)

Dec 23, 2010 By Guy Webster
Movie from Mars - Phobos Passes in Front of Sun's Face, Nov. 9, 2010. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Texas A&M

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new Mars movie clip gives us a rover's-eye view of a bluish Martian sunset, while another clip shows the silhouette of the moon Phobos passing in front of the sun.

America's Opportunity, carefully guided by researchers with an artistic sense, has recorded images used in the simulated movies.

These holiday treats from the rover's panoramic camera, or Pancam, offer travel fans a view akin to standing on and watching the sky.

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Movie from Mars - Sunset Watched by Opportunity, November 2010. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

"These visualizations of an alien show what it must have looked like for Opportunity, in a way we rarely get to see, with motion," said rover science team member Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, College Station. Dust particles make the Martian sky appear reddish and create a bluish glow around the sun.

Lemmon worked with Pancam Lead Scientist Jim Bell, of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., to plot the shots and make the moving-picture simulation from images taken several seconds apart in both sequences.

The sunset movie, combining exposures taken Nov. 4 and Nov. 5, 2010, through different camera filters, accelerates about 17 minutes of sunset into a 30-second simulation. One of the filters is specifically used to look at the sun. Two other filters used for these shots provide color information. The rover team has taken Pancam images of sunsets on several previous occasions, gaining scientifically valuable information about the variability of dust in the lower atmosphere. The new clip is the longest sunset movie from Mars ever produced, taking advantage of adequate solar energy currently available to Opportunity.

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Movie from Mars - Phobos Passes in Front of Sun's Face, Nov. 9, 2010. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Texas A&M

The two Martian moons are too small to fully cover the face of the sun, as seen from the surface of Mars, so these events -- called transits or partial eclipses -- look quite different from a solar eclipse seen on Earth. Bell and Lemmon chose a transit by Phobos shortly before the Mars sunset on Nov. 9, 2010, for a set of Pancam exposures taken four seconds apart and combined into the new, 30-second, eclipse movie. Scientifically, images years apart that show Phobos' exact position relative to the sun at an exact moment in time aid studies of slight changes in the moon's orbit. This, in turn, adds information about the interior of Mars.

The world has gained from these movies and from more than a quarter million other images from Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, since they landed on Mars in January 2004. Those gains go beyond the facts provided for science.

Bell said, "For nearly seven years now, we've been using the cameras on Spirit and Opportunity to help us experience Mars as if we were there, viewing these spectacular vistas for ourselves. Whether it's seeing glorious sunsets and eclipses like these, or the many different and lovely sandy and rocky landscapes that we've driven through over the years, we are all truly exploring Mars through the lenses of our hardy robotic emissaries.

"It reminds me of a favorite quote from French author Marcel Proust: 'The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes,'" he added.

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User comments : 18

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Quantum_Conundrum
1.2 / 5 (6) Dec 23, 2010
Thanks to the Obama's near-cancellation of America's manned space flight program, the future of unmanned missions looks bright.

Emerging technologies in computers and optics over the next several years will allow the next generation space craft to take "holographic" quality videos in all known spectra, using phased optical arrays in combination with conventional cameras, giving us the ability to map the surface of these planets and moons to spectacular color depth and resolution.

Spirit and Opportunity have provided a lot of entertainment and science, but they are about as primitive as sputnik when compared to what we will be launching 15 years from now.

We now have smart phones that have most of the instruments on board these spacecraft, and in many cases the smart phone's devices are better. The computer in the smart phone is 100's of times better.

They could send an iPod on wheels with a solar panel and it'd be as good as those rovers...
lexington
5 / 5 (1) Dec 23, 2010
This is just a theory.
CHollman82
5 / 5 (3) Dec 23, 2010
They could send an iPod on wheels with a solar panel and it'd be as good as those rovers...


You can't be serious...
Husky
not rated yet Dec 23, 2010
yes he is, provided you attach arms and legs to the ipod brains it will bring The gospel of Steve Jobs to the underpriviliged green martian men, but indeed killing the manned flight can be a mixed blessing, investing instead in better eyes and ears to probe the skies, large telescopes in orbit and smart small robotlanders have given a lot of scientific bang for the bucks put in
Husky
not rated yet Dec 23, 2010
meanwhile nasa should keep focus on developing low cost to orbit (thethers for example) and high performance for the long haul (nuclear rockets) before its worthwhle venturing into a huge manned flight program. Then, I think it would be time to prove that we can colonize/mine the moon first instead of throwing money at a very expensive mission just to beat the chinese in planting a ceremonial flag on mars, wich could make one swell with pride but does not carry as much scientific/economical fruit as serious moon development
zz6549
5 / 5 (1) Dec 23, 2010
You're almost right. An iPod has more than enough processing power, but keep in mind it was not designed for outerspace. Temperature and radiation are significant factors that would have to be considered.
flying_finn
not rated yet Dec 24, 2010
Good stuff. The Chinese are going to the moon. Competition can be a constructive thing.
SincerelyTwo
5 / 5 (2) Dec 24, 2010
Quantum_Conundrum,

There was never going to be a cancelation, the media exaggerated and misinterpreted everything that was going on, and as usual they took his statements out of context and represented them incompletely.

The problem is paranoid, irrational and insane people like you who knee-jerk over-react to partial and misrepresented information that comes from the news networks.

I wish people could wake up to reality, it is nothing like the exaggeration you're forced to perceive in everything through the media.

I don't even want to address the other inane and absurd statements you've made, you are a ridiculous person.
flying_finn
not rated yet Dec 25, 2010

Reuters.com - China launches second lunar exploration probe
http://www.reuter...20101002
Crystal ball broke,owe medium money, yes I read the news.
Quantum_Conundrum
not rated yet Dec 25, 2010
flying finn:

Considering how big their population is, China has a lot more "potential" manufacturing power relative to the U.S. as they develop their technology and infrastructure more and more. They project a lunar landing for 2025 to 2030, which shouldn't be too hard, by comparison, since we've shown them how to do it, and they've already had orbiters there. Back when the U.S. did the apollo missions, the manned missions were only a few years behind the first american and soviet unmanned orbiters and landers.
Quantum_Conundrum
3 / 5 (2) Dec 25, 2010
I don't even want to address the other inane and absurd statements you've made, you are a ridiculous person.


So...you deny an ipod is basicly strictly better than the computers on Spirit and Opportunity, and the cameras are better too? What are they up to now on smart phones? One 1.5 megapixel camera and one 8 megapixel camera, with a gyroscope, accelerometer and gps...all for $199, not 400 million.

So what, add a bigger power supply, (Solar panel,) and some shielding, a shovel and a spectrometer, and you have a better probe. Get over it.

and yes I know it takes shieldnig for radiation in space, which is fricken obvious, but I wouldn't expect people on tis site understand the point.

Like why don't we make one fricken probe design that is flexible and reliable, and send one to every solid planet and moon in the system, instead of a complete 400 million dollar re-design every year or two...
yyz
not rated yet Dec 25, 2010
@QC

That should be a one, sorry. Why do you think any space probe at any given time needs the latest and greatest technology? There are stringent design reviews for every mission. Scientists lay out the necessary specs for every scientific instrument that flies. 10 megapixel cameras are not necessary to fulfill the imaging requirements for this mission (and color CCD or CMOS imagers are not needed or ideal; MANY filters make these cameras wavelength specific).

Besides the radiation problem (which increases with shrinking fab sizes, btw), the electronics need to survive shaking and temps for the several month voyage.

Once there, it must survive the temps and dustiness of Mars. And there are numerous tradeoffs that need to be made wrt power management. Stop being so simplistic here. NASA doesn't need multicore CPUs-GPUs, 10+ megapixel imagers or any other doodads you seem to think they need. Why not look at the design specs for this mission and see what was NEEDED?
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (1) Dec 25, 2010
yyz:

Why wouldn't you send the best technology available? that doesn't make sense.

How is a better quality image not helpful, instead of the highly blurred and pixelated stuff they usually have?

Why not design a mission to do what is POSSIBLE, and not just one or two relatively insignificant experiments?

If you are going to spend this amounts of money on something, you may as well put the best of every instrument known to man on the thing.
yyz
5 / 5 (1) Dec 25, 2010
"Why wouldn't you send the best technology available? that doesn't make sense"

One good reason is cost. Sure, scientists ideally would want gigapixel cameras and banks of supercomputers (with multiple RTGs) going to Mars for the Curiosity rover mission. So now , instead of a billion dollar mission you have a trillion dollar mission(many times NASA's yearly budget). Try selling that to Congress and the taxpayers out there in this economy.

And if this mission fails somewhere down the line, watcha gonna do? You put all your eggs in one basket (and killed off development of any other missions to fund this one).
Quantum_Conundrum
5 / 5 (1) Dec 25, 2010
"Why wouldn't you send the best technology available? that doesn't make sense"

One good reason is cost. Sure, scientists ideally would want gigapixel cameras and banks of supercomputers (with multiple RTGs) going to Mars for the Curiosity rover mission. So now , instead of a billion dollar mission you have a trillion dollar mission(many times NASA's yearly budget). Try selling that to Congress and the taxpayers out there in this economy.

And if this mission fails somewhere down the line, watcha gonna do? You put all your eggs in one basket (and killed off development of any other missions to fund this one).


Nobody said anything about a trillion dollars. You're being absurd now.
barakn
5 / 5 (2) Dec 26, 2010
They could send an iPod on wheels with a solar panel and it'd be as good as those rovers...

No. IPods aren't radiation hardened. An iPod would be rebooting itself every few minutes. Hardware that is sent to space is usually not off the shelf, and it's usually nowhere near as fast as the current off the shelf components.
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (2) Dec 26, 2010
No. IPods aren't radiation hardened. An iPod would be rebooting itself every few minutes.


yay. Another cretin who can't read between the lines.

Congratulations, captain obvious.

Hardware that is sent to space is usually not off the shelf, and it's usually nowhere near as fast as the current off the shelf components.


Makes perfect sense to spend $100,000 per pound to send an out-dated component. Now I get it.
Parsec
5 / 5 (1) Dec 30, 2010
@QC - your understanding is failing you here. You really have no idea what the effects of extreme temps and high levels of radiation are on electronics.

Its not just that you have to make things bigger or simpler. Entire technologies are excluded. You can't carry enough shielding for most types of electronics for example. Furthermore, those technologies that are naturally radiation tolerant are expensive and usually have to be produced in small volume since they are not good for most other things. This leads to high cost.

I work for a chip manufacturer that specializes in supplying radiation and temperature tolerant chips to the military and space industries, so I really know of what I speak. Your ignorance is awesome, and your arrogance for speaking so assuredly out of a total lack of understanding is embarrassing.