Vroooom!!!!

Sorry, I know that’s not a very subtle or scientific title for a post, but it pretty much sums up Oppy’s recent activities and progress. Remember that interesting-looking “cluster” of craters Oppy was heading towards a few sols ago? Well, it’s far behind her already, she just steamed past it almost without stopping. “Nothing to see here!” was the cry from the rover team, so Oppy just kept going, and is now – get this, I’m being serious, I swear – around half a kilometre closer to Cape York than she was at the end of last week. That’s incredible progress, and she’s now around two and a half kilometres away from her proposed Cape York landfall, “Spirit Point”.

(By the way, I discovered that there’s a “wilderness camp in the US called “Spirit Point”, which I thought was rather cool, so I emailed them to let them know that they shared their name with a feature on Mars, thinking it might be of interest to them. No reply. So stuff them.)

Anyway, Oppy is now well past “Crater Cluster”, and now well on her way to her next ‘waypoint’, a crater I’ve nicknamed “Approach Crater” because it seems to lie on a boundary in the local terrain, a boundary marking the transition onto even smoother driving ground – and, quite possibly, a place from where we’ll get our best look at Endeavour Crater to date, because it seems to be on something of a “high point” in the local topography, and when we get there we should kind of be looking down on Endeavour and the area around it.

Here’s where Oppy was at the end of Sol 2629, well past the crater cluster as you can see…

There’s now a 1.5km drive to the next major waypoint, the aforementioned “Approach Crater”…

But between where we are now, and Approach Crater, there are a couple of points of interest, I think. Firstly, I believe there’s a chance that we’ll get our first view of Cape York – or at least the highest parts of it – from a point roughly halfway between where Oppy was on sol 2629 and Approach Crater.

I know the MOLA (height) data on Google Mars can’t be trusted completely, but I think that when we reach this spot it will be a real “high point” in the terrain and might allow us to see the ‘peaks’ of Cape York for the first time…

But what’s really caught my attention is a feature some 300m further on from that location, a little to the south of the anticipated track Oppy will take to Spirit Point. In the middle of an area of that bright bedrock, I spotted this…

When I zoomed in on it, I saw this…

Hmmm. Now, either that is simply a bog-standard patch of brighter bedrock, with an area of dark dust blown up against it or gathered beside it, or it MIGHT be a quite large and quite high wedge or “fin” of bedrock, an outcrop of some considerable size…

To give a sense of scale, here’s how it compares to our ‘virtual Oppy’ (the dot on the end of the trail coming down from top left)…

And in 3D…

Now, let’s be clear. I’m not saying this IS something “wow!” and unusual. These images aren’t exactly pin-sharp, and there’s a lot of light-and-shadow trickery going on. But I do think it’s an interesting “something”, and I hope that as Oppy closes in on Approach Crater she takes a slight detour to the south to check it out.

Interesting sights ahead! :-)

UPDATE: Ah. It seems I might have got the whole “wedge” thing a bit – well, absolutely – wrong. One of my fellow UMSF members, FredK, has pointed out that the “wedge” may in fact be a “pit”, because the shadows being cast by other features in the area suggest the light is coming from the west (left), which would mean that bright ‘wedge’ is actually the illuminated face of a trench cut into the ground. I can see what he means. If that’s the case, it means no tall outcrop to look at – but, instead, a deep trench, possibly with some very interesting rock layers inside it! It’s a result either way, and I hope it tempts the science team into a wee detour… :-)

By the way, this is apparently the 301st post on “Road to Endeavour”! If you’ve been here from the start, thank you! And if you’re a new reader – welcome! The best is yet to come! :-)

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3 Responses to Vroooom!!!!

  1. Astro0 says:

    Don’t tell Ustrax, he’ll claim that it’s a trapdoor entrance to a cave LOL :)

    Congratulations on the RtE series. It’s been a fascinating journey across the Meridiani plains and made all the more enjoyable by your dedicated efforts in recording and reporting it in such great detail – with the right touch of fun and speculation thrown in to keep us ‘on the hook’ for the next instalment.

    Thanks
    Astro0

  2. Wow 301 posts !! Thanks for all your dedicated work so far… This is likely to be the closest I will get to wandering the surface of mars for myself… Please keep it up, I can’t wait to see what’s next for Oppy…

  3. Pingback: Enlaces de Astronomía: Semana 13-06-2011 « Campos de Estrellas

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