Homestake revisited…

2,760 days after her landing on Mars, as she drove up the westernm side of Cape York, Opportunity spotted something very interesting on the surface of the Red Planet – a vein of light-coloured mineral, protruding from the ground. This feature, christened “Homestake” by the MER team, turned out to be one of the most important scientific sites ever studied on Mars, because the mineral was discovered to be gypsum, laid down as water moved through cracks in the martian rocks, millennia ago. The discovery of “Homestake” proved that at least this part of Mars was once warmer and wetter, and might even have been a posible habitat for life. Opportunity is now exploring the northern end of Cape York, looking for veins like Homestake but larger, large enough to drill into and study properly with her package of scientific instruments. She’s found one possible target – a vein christened “Monte Cristo” – but it’s not clear yet if the vein is big enough to work with ain the way the MER team are wanting to, we’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, with great timing, a new batch of calibrated images has been released by NASA, and the rover’s images of “Homestake” are included in this release! Why is this worth mentioning? Why did it mean I was up until almost 3am this morning clicking away in Photoshop, Paintshop and other image making programs? Well, these ‘cleaned up’ images are much better to work with than the “raw” images which are released daily, and a new release always send MER followers – people like yours truly who enjoy using MER images to create new ‘products’, such as colourisations, 3D anaglyphs and detailed mosaics – into a bit of a spin as we grab them and set to work on them with a passion, determined to make something that will, hopefully, be just a little bit better than our previous efforts!

Here, then, is another look at “Homestake”… hope you like the new pictures! 🙂

I **love** that second one, I’m delighted with how it turned out, because you can clearly see the “sparkly bits” exposed on Homestake by the rover’s wheels as it rolled over it. (These sparkly bits were referred to by the MER team at the time, but I’ve never been able to see them on any of the images I’ve made, but using the new calibrated data they really stand out, don’t they? )

Here’s another pic showing a smaller vein close to Homestake, spotted at the time by Opportunity…

Just how much difference is there between images created using “raw” and calibrated data? Take a look at the following “Before and After” views – each top pic was made using raw data, and each lower image was made with the newly-released calibrated data…

I’ll spend some time now trawling through this latest data release looking for more gorgeous views. Check back soon to see how I get on…! 🙂

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