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Watch an eclipse and sunset on Mars

We've just had a lovely total lunar eclipse on Earth — so how about watching a solar eclipse on Mars? Pictures from NASA's Opportunity rover record just such an event, which occurred on Nov. 9. Neither of Mars' moons is big enough to cover the whole disk of the sun during an eclipse, so a partial blackout is the best Phobos could do in this video clip.

After the eclipse, you'll see a typical Martian sunset, stitched together from exposures taken on Nov. 4 and 5. The 30-second sequence is a speeded-up rendition of a sunset that would take 17 minutes in real time. The sky looks blue around the sun in these pictures because of the scattering effect produced by dust particles of a particular size in the Martian atmosphere. Farther away from the sun, the Martian sky takes on more of a reddish cast.

The scientists who created the rover movies say they're the next-best thing to being there. "These visualizations of an alien sunset show what it must have looked like for Opportunity, in a way we rarely get to see, with motion," rover science team member Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University said in a NASA image advisory. Simulated images were added to the sequences to produce a smooth viewing experience.

More moving pictures from Mars:

For the eclipse movie, the image sequencing was done by Emily Dean, Dale Theiling, Elaina McCartney and Jon Proton. Image processing was done by Jim Bell and Mark Lemmon. Event timing was handled by Tom Duxbury. The team expressed thanks to members of the operations and support teams in the NASA/JPL Mars Exploration Program and Deep Space Network. Credit for both movies goes to NASA, JPL-Caltech, Cornell University and Texas A&M.

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