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Emily LakdawallaJuly 24, 2008

Midnight Sun on Mars

This image is amazing. It is actually many images of the Sun, shot near midnight as Phoenix gazes off toward Mars' north pole. My congratulations to the Phoenix team for imagining it and capturing it, from a spacecraft built well enough to operate around the clock. I think this will become an iconic photo for the mission.

Midnight Sun on Mars

NASA / JPL / UA / Texas A & M

Midnight Sun on Mars
Uniquely among Mars landers, Phoenix is able to work "around the clock," becuase of its far northern location. Since it is summer in Mars' northern hemisphere, and because Phoenix landed above Mars' "Arctic Circle," the Sun never sets, instead circling overhead. However, the Sun is highest in the southern sky and lowest in the northern sky. Phoenix shot this panoramic view looking to the north near midnight on sol 54-55 (July 20, 2008). The images of the Sun were captured over 11 different sols at a variety of different local times, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Each night, the Sun's path across the sky was slightly lower, causing the lack of smoothness to the curve. As the summer wears on, the path of the midnight Sun will eventually intersect the horizon, and Phoenix will finally see its first sunset. This will happen some time in September.

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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