Oppy has now left the Mercury Cluster far behind, and is continuing on her trek towards Endeavour crater.
The ground ahead of her is great for driving on, and on the far horizon, the hills of the great, ancient crater are more imposing – and closer – than ever.
But wait, what’s that? Way out there, on the horizon – that bright feature?
That’s another crater… Like a frog hopping from one lilly pad to another, Oppy is essentially hopping from crater to crater as she heads to Endeavour. But which crater is it? Well, we’re not quite sure yet. There’s quite a debate going on over on UMSF about it, some say it’s quite close to Oppy, others say it’s nearly a kilometre away, but we’ll know a lot more once the latest batch of images comes back.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at how our view of the western hills has changed since we left Santa Maria. I decided to do a comparison after “MoreInput”, a member of UMSF, asked about this recently. He figured, quite rightly, that as Oppy is now 2km closer to those hills than she was back at Endeavour, they should look different – bigger, maybe? Well, yes, they do look different – but they actually look less impressive, because Oppy has driven into something of a dip since leaving Santa Maria, so her eastern horizon has risen up, obscuring her view of the lower parts of the hill. Take a look at the animation below (you’ll probably need to click on it to ‘activate’ it) and you’ll see how the view changes. It starts with the view from Santa Maria then flicks to the view from the centre of the Mercury Cluster (you can tell which is which because the more recent image shows part of one of the Cluster’s craters)…
I think that when Oppy reaches the new crater on the horizon our view of those hills will improve again, quite dramatically. Come back and check if I’m right! 🙂