Oppy on the prowl…

While Curiosity makes her short test drives, across the grit-covered floor of Gale Crater, taking beautiful – if camouflaged – images of Mt Sharp and its spectacular geological features, on the other side of Mars, almost ignored by the media and all but the most faithful MER fans, Opportunity has just, amazingly, passed the 35km mark (read that again, 35 KILOMETRES!!!!!) on her epic trek across the Red Planet. And she has just paused in her drive down the eastern flank of Cape York to head uphill again, towards a fascinating outcrop of rocks which are jutting up out of the surface like half-excavated dinosaur bones.

And before anyone dashes off to Tweet or blog about me saying fossils have been discovered on Mars, THEY’RE NOT DINOSAUR BONES, they just LOOK LIKE THEM, ok? :-)

But let’s backtrack a bit. Yesterday’s images looked very promising when they appeared, hinting at some fascinating rock up ahead…

The most interesting feature there is mid-left, that very lumpy-looking ridge of dark rock silhouetted against the brighter slope. In 3D it really stood out…

And today the images sent back by Oppy show that she has driven closer to that ridge…you can almost hear the geologists drooling from here, can’t you..?

You only really get a hint of how fascinating this ridge could be when you see it in 3D, and the various fins, spines and blocks jump out at you… click on this next image and just spend some time wandering around it, you’ll be amazed by the variety of shapes and structures here…

But obviously none of the above images show what this ridge actually looks like, you need a colour image to show you that. Here you go…

Wow… isn’t that beautiful? :-) What are those rocks made of? How did this feature form? What do the diferent colours and textures mean? These are all questions which the MER team will be hoping to answer over the next few days, I’m sure. I think we’ll see Oppy driving closer to this outcrop and studying it in a lot of detail. That central ‘fin’ looks very interesting…

To finish this post, I want to shine a spotlight on an image that came back yesterday. It’s one of the hazcam images, so is distorted “fisheye” style, but I think it captures Oppy’s adventure at Cape York in one brilliant view…

Look at that… you’ve got Oppy’s tracks leading up from the base of Cape York… the hills of Cape Tribulation, Oppy’s next destination,  on the horizon… rocks at her feet ready to be studied… the robot arm flexing its scientific muscles… Mars’ wide open sky… Oppy’s own shadow cast on the rocky ground by the low Sun… just wonderful! :-)

Beat that, Curiosity!

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One Response to Oppy on the prowl…

  1. Jim D. Jones says:

    I celebrate Oppy and NASA’s huge achievement every day. I go to Mars every day! Thank you for your part, Stu. Every day is a Wow moment.

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