Pillinger Point in all its glory…

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (and if you are, thank you!) you’ll be aware that for a while now Opportunity has been trundling happily around a rocky outcrop, christened “Pillinger Point” in honour of the British planetary scientist Colin Pillinger who died recently. High up on the windswept slopes of Solander Point, it offers Opportunity not only a wonderful view of the Endeavour Crater and its surroundings, but great science opportunities too. I’ve posted a few photos of it – panoramas made by combining several images into one – showing just how beautiful it is geologically. Look at this one small part of it and you will see why the MER science team are so interested in this feature – it’s studded with rocky fragments, cross-crossed with jagged cracks and cut across by “valleys” and miniature ridges…


..and when you see the whole of Pillinger Point, with Endeavour opened up beneath it, you get a feel for just what a glorious place this is. This is my best shot at rendering that view, a mosaic of more than a dozen different Oppy images…


…and it’s ok, I guess. It’s the best I can do with the time, software and skill available to me, so yeah, I’m quite pleased with that. But of course, when you see something like that you really want to see it in colour, don’t you? You want to know what it would be like to stand there, on that ridge, sweeping your gaze around the landscape, seeing the different shades, hues and colours of the planet around you, right?

Well, sadly, I can’t do that with one of my own pictures because I can’t assemble a colour mosaic that doesn’t look like a Frankenstein’s monster of an image. I’ve tried assembling such a mega image before, but the end result has always been a badly stitched-together mass of different-coloured squares, with ill-fitting borders and badly-aligned features, so I wasn’t even going to try to make a full size panorama of Pillinger Point!

However, luckily for you (and me!) I know someone who has the skill, and the patience, and the dedication, to do just that.

James Sorenson is one of the most accomplished “image gurus” on the popular and prolific unmanedspaceflight.com forum, and he has been working on a colour panorama mosaic image of Pillinger Point ever since Oppy arrived here, day by day adding new images to the panorama, effectively slotting new pieces of a jigsaw together one by one balancing and blending them all together perfectly, to create something wonderful. And James has been good enough to send me the end result so you can all enjoy it here!

But before I show you the image, I think it’s about time someone said something about some of the Mars images being used online. Many popular websites now regularly feature “colourised” images of Mars, taken by both Opportunity and Curiosity, which are, frankly, bloody awful. These black and white images are tinted a bilious brown-yellow, and seriously, they’re shockingly, sphincter-clenchingly bad, and are, in my opinion, an insult to the men and women behind the missions which took the original images in the first place.

I don’t get it, I just don’t. People know what Mars looks like now. They are familiar with its colours. After decades of enjoying images sent back the Vikings, Pathfinder, Spirit, Opportunity and now Curiosity, we know that Nature painted Mars in countless gloriously subtle and beautiful shades and hues of caramel, orange and red, biscuit and copper. So why do some websites insist on using hideous brown-green”colourisations” which make the spectacularly beautiful martian landscape look like it was covered in phlegm? It baffles me, it really does, especially when genuine colour images are freely available.

These images really should not be used in my opinion. But for some reason they are used, everywhere, again and again, and I just can’t get my head around it. I mean, you wouldn’t show a picture like this and suggest it’s a worthy “colourisation” of Yosemite Valley, would you?

Yosemite Valley View Panorama

So why would you want to show a magnificent martian landscape as a bland and monotone? It baffles me, seriously.

Which makes it even more important, I think, to highlight the work of people who take the time and trouble to create realistic views of Mars, by slogging away for hours at their computers, making sure all the different images combine perfectly, and doing their best to show the true colours of Mars. Now before anyone jumps down my throat and whines “You can’t say that… everyone would see Mars differently… there’s no right colour…” etc, I KNOW that. If all of you reading this stood on Mars together, no two of you would see it exactly the same. You’d all have a slightly different view, with some of you seeing the yellow hues stronger than the reds and vice versa. So no, there is no “right” colour view. But there sure as hell is a wrong colour view – the rocks, dust and stones of Mars are not all a uniform green-brown under a green-brown sky, they’re just not, and showing the planet in that way, through some kind of bizarre “Vintage filter”, is simply wrong.

Ok, rant over! Let’s see James Sorenson’s beautiful image…


Oh my… look at that… if you click on it to enlarge it you’re there, on Mars, with the sky looming above you and the vast bowl of Endeavour Crater opened up beneath you.

Clicking on that pic will enlarge it, but if you want to see James’ image in all its glory, here’s a link to a Gigapan version of it, which you can zoom in on and pan around to your heart’s content.

Thank you, James. That‘s what Mars looks like.

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4 Responses to Pillinger Point in all its glory…

  1. tdlam says:

    Finally…FINALLY some one else (mainly yourself) has voiced what has been setting me off for years. Why do they keep showing these false colorized images in documentaries and even in articles and/or web sites without at least letting the viewer/reader KNOW they are false colorized? Its amazingly lazy and damaging to the cause in my book and it really gets me angry.
    Thanks for bringing it up and thanks for sharing the photo that your friend made. Its absolutely stunning.
    As always I do so appreciate your sentiment, passion and humor. It continues to be an honor to read your blog.

    All the very best to you!

  2. Pingback: Die erste orbitale Pressekonferenz von Alex Gerst | Skyweek Zwei Punkt Null

  3. Serpens says:

    Great effort Stu. I don’t know why you ceased posting on Unmanned Space Flight but your sense of humour and input is sadly missed. Keep up the good work on your blog.

    • phoenixpics says:

      Thanks, really appreciate you following the blog and your comments too. Long story why I left UMSF, but doubt I am missed, though it’s nice of you to say so. 🙂

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