How Oppy rolled up to Santa Maria…

Oppy has now reached Santa Maria’s rim, and will soon begin an exhaustive scientific study of the crater and its surroundings. The next batch of pictures that will come back will allow us to make the first colour panoramas of the crater, and then we’ll get our first inkling of just how special this place is. Rover enthusiasts and MER science team members alike are all looking forward to seeing how dark, or light, the blocks of ejecta scattered around the crater are, and I know I’m not alone in really wanting to see those dark, wind-blown dust deposits built up against the crater’s steep north wall in colour. But as we wait for those images to hit the net, I thought it might be nice to look back on how Oppy saw Santa Maria as she approached it.

Oppy got her first proper look at Santa Maria (to save typing time I’m just gonna refer to it as “SM” from now on, ok? You all know what I’m talking about, I’m sure!) on December 1st, when the crater just resembled a bright line, with a hint of a couple of bumps, in the far distance. Click on this image (and all the ones in this post) to see it in more detail…

By December 6th SM was starting to show some real detail. We could now see features on the crater’s upraised rim…

One sol more’s driving was all it took to transform the appearance of SM. December 7th’s images showed us this view – including our first glimpse of those fascinating big rocks and boulders close to the rim…

December the 8th, and although not a lot more detail had become visible, I think everyone was really starting to get excited about Oppy’s imminent arrival at the crater within a few more days…

By December 13th all sorts of amazing detail was becoming visible on the side of the crater. We could now see the largest boulders and ejecta blocks quite clearly, and could even see across to the farside of the crater through a gap in the nearside ‘wall’…

Finally, on the 15th, the true nature of SM became clear, as images came back that allowed rover enthusiasts like yours truly to make panoramic images like this one…

Of course, that just whetted our appetites for The Pictures – the images Oppy would take when she rolled up to within a few metres of the crater’s edge and peered over it to see the crater in all its glory, and on Dec 16th jaws dropped around the world as we saw this…

… and then this

And yesterday, we had our first look at the northern side of the crater, with those dark dunes piled up against it… and they didn;t disappoint…

By this morning rover enthusiasts and image makers had enough pictures to allow them to make the first panoramas showing the crater in its entirety. This one is the work of one of UMSF’s finest imagesmiths, mhoward, whose work I featured in a previous post…

That was quite a journey – and I mean that in the true sense of the word, not the modern X-Factor “amaaaazing journey from a checkout at Tesco to singing in front of thousands of people” way. Now we’re all waiting for the next set of images to come back, so we can see just how scientifically interesting the rocks around this beautiful crater are.

Check back later!

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6 Responses to How Oppy rolled up to Santa Maria…

  1. Nic says:

    wow, mhoward’s panorama really brings the whole crater into perspective. Thanks for the summaries as always!

  2. Buck says:

    Love the recap. Very cool to see the approach all in one go like that.

  3. Monica, Houston, Texas says:

    Wow, in the last photo you can see Oppy’s solar cells in the bottom left hand corner. Truly magnificent pictures – can’t wait to see them in color.

  4. Monica, Houston, Texas says:

    I’m not a geologist, but have always been facinated with rocks; are the flat rocks sedimentary? I find it interesting, if they are sedimentary what their composition is; also the interspacing of huge rocks/boulders interspaced with the sedimentary is interesting – would this be due to the meteor impact?

  5. Kevin says:

    Well, that’s interesting, but never mind such details; what we REALLY want to know is which God omnipotently rules over all those rocks and sand on Mars. The God of Islam, or the God of Judaism………hmmmmmm?

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