Around the rugged rocks the restless rover ran…

In the past few days Opportunity has been scooching up closer, ever closer, to the entrance to Marathon Valley, pausing briefly to take a close-up look of some of the rocks she’s found bordering the valley, piled up on the ridges at its edge. Opportunity is really seeing some stunning-looking scenery now, and is wisely taking her time studying it properly before heading into the valley itself. Here are the latest postcards home…

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That’s a really nice view (click on it to enlarge it) and it shows one of the most interesting rocks Oppy has come across in a long time – this one, at the lower right…

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See that cone-shaped rock up at the top there? That looked, at first, to many people, an awful lot like a “shatter cone”, which would have been very exciting! Why? Well, to really simplify it, shatter cones are structures formed when shock waves pass through rock, so if that was a shatter cone perched up there it was exciting to think it might have been formed during the impact which formed Endeavour, or it might have been formed during a completely different impact somewhere far away from Endeavour, and it landed here after being blasted out of the ground by a later impact. But following discussions on Twitter today between members of the MER team and others, it seems it’s very unlikely to be a shatter cone after all, and is more likely a “ventifact” – a rock which has been shaped and worn away by the action of the wind. These are everywhere on Mars, we’ve seen them in other rover photos, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’ve seen a big one just sitting there on the rim of Endeavour. Oh well, never mind. Ventifacts are still cool! (And I probably wanted it to be a shatter cone just because I have a small one from an impact crater in Germany…)

Anyway, just look at it, it’s beautiful…

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It deserves the colour treatment…!

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This morning some more image sets came in, and I had a lot of fun turning them into a new colour panorama. Well, I say fun. What I really mean is THEY WERE A PAIN TO PUT TOGETHER!!!! I just couldn’t get the colours to match all across the panorama, but it’s such a lovely view I didn’t give up, and after a lot of  infuriating faffing about with skilfully and patiently working with levels and curves, etc,eventually this half-respectable view appeared on my screen…

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…which is nowhere near as good as I wanted it to be, and when James Canvin gets cracking with that he’ll no doubt turn it into a masterpiece, but it’ll do for me, for now. A couple of sections of it rather cried out to be cropped and have a little more time spent on them…

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…but again, they’re not brilliant. So, to close, a sweeping black and white panorama, which I hope some of you enjoy!

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