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Shadows of the Night
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Shadows of the Night

October 26, 2009
Highly oblique solar illumination of Eros sometimes creates illusions of familiar forms in the asteroid's shadows. This sequence of four pictures, taken June 23, 2000, from an orbital altitude of 52 kilometers (33 miles), shows a region just after local sunrise. In the upper left image, the long shadows cast with the Sun low in the sky give the impression of a certain long-eared animal. As the Sun rises over the next three frames - taken over 46 minutes - the shadows dissolve and the "bunny" is revealed as nothing more than a circular crater superimposed on a low ridge. Similar coincidental arrangements of light and shadow give the effect of boulders "floating" on shadows in some NEAR Shoemaker images, or of plain large rocks resembling pyramids or pylons.