The images coming from Mars seem to get better and better. Mars rover Opportunity is currently sitting in an alcove ofÂ Victoria Crater (called Duck Bay), in the Meridiani Planum region, carrying out rock sample analysis. The soon-to-be four year old robotic wheeled explorer has taken it’s fair share of pictures of the Martian landscape, but this most recent panoramic effort oozes with detail and color (and without a Red Planet Yeti in sight)…
The Mars Expedition Rovers (MER), Opportunity and Spirit have been trundling around on the Mars surface for nearly four years (can you believe it?), carrying out experiments on the Mars rock and regolith. These tests are be essential for future missions to the Red Planet. But, by far the most striking results come from the high definition, ground level images they transmit to Earth, to our computers and TV screens. And this panorama looking over the famous Victoria Crater is up there with the best pictures ever to be captured by the Mars rover missions.
This panorama comes from Opportunity‘s Pancam (panoramic camera) instrument taken over the course of 47 sols (or Martian days) from the 1,332nd to the 1,379th sol of the MER mission (from October 23 to December 11, 2007). Pancam applies three different filters (at 753, 535 and 432 nanometers – optical wavelengths, from red to blue) and mixes the three images to form this view. The color combination method helps the viewer to pick out features in the landscape and amplifies subtle color differences in the scene.
Probably the most startling features in the panorama are the rocky outcrops leading to the basin of the Victoria Crater toward the upper right of the image. On studying the scene, you can see tracks in the regolith formed by Opportunity‘s wheels leading up the slope in Duck Bay. The fine detail also reveals the cracked structure of the parched land stretch into the distance. The rover’s solar panels also display a feast of color, brightening up the red of the landscape.
See Duck Bay and the entrance to Victoria Crater in all its glory as a high-resolution image (very big file: 24MB, so be sure to have a fast connection, or a free morning – the wait will be worth it!). However, don’t expect to see anything of the much hyped Mars “Big Foot”, there ain’t no humanoids there…
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