Cape York, Cape York, where are you..?

Opportunity’s fans around the world are all focussed on the horizon right now, waiting impatiently for the first glimpse of Cape York, the small ‘island’ of rock selected as Oppy’s “landfall” on the rim of Endeavour Crater. But the feature has yet to show itself, and the horizon remains both close and high, blocking Oppy’s – and our! – view of not just Cape York but the fascinating tall hills on the eastern far side of Endeavour too…

Here’s one of the latest images of Oppy’s “drive direction”…

If you’re a new reader (hello!) it might help to tell you that the hump of hills on the left of the picture are on the opposite side of Endeavour, more than 20km away, and the small, dark bump on the horizon on the right is a small crater that lies between Oppy and Cape York. We’re all looking at the horizon between those two features for any sign of the highest points of Cape York to pop into view, and it could happen any day now…!

But how come we can’t see Cape York now? It’s big enough! Well, the problem is, Oppy is currently climbing up out of a dip in the local topography, so her view of “far away” is being cut-off by her local horizon. She’s not in a particularly deep dip, she’s not in a little crater or anything like that, but she is in a deep enough hole to mean that the horizon in fron of her is really blocking her view of the Good Stuff! I’ll show you what I mean using Google Mars…

This is where Oppy is now (“2645”), and you’ll see she’s climbing up a slope to get to higher ground, kind of the top of a local hillock, after which it’s basically downhill all the way to Cape York…

It makes things a lot clearer if you view it from the side…

See that little red flag I’ve planted on the top there? That’s where I’ve thought for a good few weeks now that we’ll get our first glimpse of Cape York. Maybe not all of it, maybe just the very tops of its highest peaks, its summit if you like, but I really think that that’s where we’ll see Cape York for the magical first time. And we are just a couple of drives away from there!

After that point – well, after going up another slight slope shortly ahead (the top of which I’ve marked with a green flag on the next image) – Oppy will essentially be driving downhill, towards and then over the rim of Endeavour Crater.

That sounds very dramatic, but it’s not; Endeavour’s rim isn’t sharp and jagged, it’s not a cliff, it’s more of a gentle rolling slope down into the crater’s interior, so there’ll be no “Over the top” moment for our brave rover, she’ll just gently drive downhill and gradually see more and more of the crater as the view ahead opens up for her – and us! 🙂 I think we’ll get our first full view of CY when we get to the position marked by the yellow flag on the image above. Can’t wait for that!

In the meantime, Oppy just rolls onwards, onwards, climbing up slowly out of her local dip, hours away from what might be one of the most striking views and most exciting moments of the whole adventure so far – the first view of Cape York!

Just for a bit of fun, here’s where I think the peaks of Cape York will appear… the yellow line represents the full size of Cape York from our current position, the red bar to the left shows the rough direction in which I think CY’s summit will pop into view…

Keep checking back to see if I’m right (which I’m probably not, but it’s still fun to guess!)

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