Oppy’s great crater tour continues

If you’ve been waiting for a Road to Endeavour update on Opportunity’s activities, sorry, I’ve been busy with other “real life” things. Very inconvenient, I know! And also, although she hasn’t been moving much, Curiosity has been taking some truly beautiful images, which I’ve shared and written up on my other Mars blog, “The Gale Gazette”, which I hope you keep an eye on too…

But Oppy is still roving, still exploring the rocky island of “Cape York” on the rim of the ancient, giant Endeavour Crater, so time for an update!

The last time we called in on Oppy she was working her way towards and then past a number of rocky outcrops on the eastern flank of Cape York, having made very intense studies of the flat “Whitewater Lake” feature. Here’s the view she had a couple of days ago…

Since then she’s continued to drive roughly south, past those outcrops, heading towards some very interesting features. Let’s take a look at where she is now, using Google Mars and Eduardo Tesheiner’s fantastic track file…

…we can see that Oppy is now around halfway back down Cape York, heading back towards Odyssey Crater and the great stone blocks scattered around it like tombstones. But before she gets there – IF she gets there, she might yet drive back down onto the lower ground, the so-called “Bench”, and drive off the Cape somewhere down there – she has some more fascinating geology to see. If we zoom in on Oppy’s current location…

… we can see that Oppy is now close to yet another of the small craters blasted out of the side of Cape York by meteoroid impacts. It’s not huge by any means, but it’s a nice place to stop and take in the view…

A slightly closer view…

I don’t think Oppy will tarry very long here, because she’s about to drive into some very interesting terrain – the area of Cape York which has, according to measurements taken by orbiting probes – the highest concentrations of phyllosilicates on Cape York. Phyllosilicates are, essentially, clay-bearing minerals which form in the presence of water, so the chance for Oppy to find them on Cape York, and study them, is why she drove all this way from Victoria Crater in the first place.

(For a reminder of why phyllosilicates are so important, read Emily Lakdawalla’s fantastic blog post from a couple of years ago…)

How close is she to these precious phyllosilicates? Well, here is a view of Cape York taken by the CRISM instrument onboard MRO. It looks like someone’s spilled paint all over it, I know, but it’s a geological and mineralogical map, and basically the red splashes are areas where those phyllosilicates are present…

(Image credit: NASA/JPL/UA /JHUAPL)

So where is Oppy in relation to these phyllosilicate deposits? Let’s take that picture and plot Oppy’s track on it… you’ll need to click on the image to enlarge it and see the track more clearly…

And you can see from that that she is now very close to one of those phyllosilicate areas! Exciting! BUT, will she explore and search for those clays here, snuffling for them like a pig hunting for truffles, or head further south, to the terrain where they appear to be deposited more richly and over a greater area? I guess we’ll know after the next drive. So check back soon to see what Oppy does next… 🙂

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One Response to Oppy’s great crater tour continues

  1. Birgit says:

    Thank you Stu, for the status from OPPY ! I love your Sites !

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