Creeping closer to Cape York…

Oh, Oppy is so close to Cape York now, so close…!

Here’s her latest position plotted on Google Mars, courtesy of UMSF’s Teseheiner…

Oppy is now less than 400m away from the point in the landscape – represented by the straight yellow line – where she should be able to catch her first glimpse of Cape York. That’s just a handful more good drives until Oppy sees her landfall on the horizon…!

What can she see now? She can see this… (click to enlarge)

..and here’s a mosaic panorama showing the whole of her view ahead…

Two things visible on the left hand side of┬áthat image scream “closer!!!” to a MER-watcher. Firstly, the bottom edge of the round(ish), dark crater blasted out of the hills on the farside of Endeavour is now totally clear of the horizon, and secondly the two small humps we’ve seen on that horizon are now a lot bigger even than they were yesterday. So, Oppy is steaming ahead, and soon she’ll reach those humps – actually the north and south sides of a crater that I nicknamed “Approach Crater” ages ago, and that’s when she should see Cape York for the first time. Exciting times ahead!

In fact, if you take that image and stretch it vertically you can see a LOT more detail visible over on the other side of the crater…

What are we seeing? This…

We’re even starting to see hints of detail in Approach Crater, too…

But of course, all this is just a warm-up act for Oppy’s first sight of, and then arrival at Cape York, her designated “landfall site” on the rim of the mighty Endeavour Crater. So, with just a handful of drives to complete before Oppy spots her destination, what can we expect to actually see on the horizon?

Well. This is the thing. It’s a fun thing, if you don’t take all this too seriously, but it is a Thing.

When it comes to what CY will actually look like when it pokes its head over the horizon, opinions differ, and vary, and not a little. There are people like me who, looking at the HiRISE images of CY from orbit, think that there’s quite a lot of “vertical relief” on it, a fancy way of saying that some parts stick up into the air from it quite a lot. Here’s what I have been hoping we’ll see when Oppy reaches the top of the local topography…

Others – and by “others” I mean people like my friend, Doug Ellison, who founded the UMSF forum and now works for NASA at JPL, who knows a lot about Mars, in fact he’s probably forgotten more about it than I’ll ever know! – insist that actually, the surface relief is only slight, and over a wide area, meaning that CY is essentially little more than a slightly raised platform of rock, not unlike “Homeplate” which was explored by Oppy’s much-missed sister rover, Spirit, over on the other side of Mars, in Gusev Crater. If that’s the case, then we won’t see a pair of small peaks peek up from beyond the horizon, we’ll see more like a dark band come into view, with a few knobbles and bobbles on it.

Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!! :-(

Of course, it doesn’t matter what Cape York looks like; it’s the amazing science Oppy will (hopefully!) do once she gets there that counts. But I’ll admit to being a little disappointed that we won’t get to see a bit more in the way of landscaping when we get to CY.

This was actually summed up extremely well – and hilariously! – by UMSF member “ilbasso”, who came up with┬áthis pair of pictures comparing what I was hoping to see with what we will probably see for real…

Hehe, I love that!! :-)

So, what’s the truth of the situation?

Thanks to some stunning new computer work by yet another UMSF member, “algorimancer”, we can see just how flat CY actually is. It really does seem to resemble Homeplate when you look at a rendering of it like this…

 

 

…so I guess we can kiss a fond goodbye to any ideas we had of seeing “peaks” rising up from behind the horizon. Cape York is not going to look that impressive in itself, it will offer no stunning landscape views of its own. BUT, I still think that when Oppy rolls around Cape York, and takes images showing it with the farside hills of Endeavour off to the side – or even better, if Oppy rolls up to the ‘top’ of Cape York and looks out across Endeavour – those images are going to be quite something.

Not long to wait now to find out, anyway… :-)

Finally for this post, I want to ask you all to leave Road To Endeavour – just for a while! Come back! – and go visit another blog which will be covering Oppy’s drive up to and then studies of the rim of Endeavour. It’s written by one of the MER team itself, and promises to give all of us rover fans out here some truly fascinating insights into what goes on behind the scenes with the MER mission. This blog, my blog, is very much an amateur affair, a personal tribute to the mission and an enthusiast’s view of the adventure, nothing more, nothing less. Matt’s blog will have a lot more science, and technical stuff, so you really must head over there now, right now, and take a look. Matt’s a great writer, very funny, so you’re guaranteed a good time there.

Here’s the link: http://opportunityendeavour.blogspot.com

Right, I’m off to see if there are any more pictures from Oppy. More soon!

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3 Responses to Creeping closer to Cape York…

  1. Matt Lenda says:

    Pretty stuff.

    There have been some high-quality Endeavour Rim images from the Pancam in recent plans, with (obviously) more to come. They were prioritized low in the downlink and I don’t know which, if any, have come down yet for us to take a peek at. I also don’t know if they were color. In any case, expect some really pretty stuff in the coming days. The science folks are going crazy and filling up flash! Thank God for our Data Management team…

    -m

  2. Harald Wolf says:

    Where do your images come from? All I’ve had to look at are on the JPL site, and it seems to have lost 50 days of images in the last few, without explanation. (Their efforts to communicate seem to have dwindled dramatically, probably due to budget concerns)
    http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/all/opportunity.html

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