She’s Out!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (and if you are, thank you!) you’ll have noticed that it’s been almost two weeks since it was updated. That’s because basically Opportunity paused just beneath the lip of the slope she has been climbing up out of “The Valleys” (my name, not NASA’s) en-route to the flat top of Cape Tribulation – and parked up there, with the flat summit of the Cape visible just up ahead, close enough to touch almost…

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She then began taking a BIG panorama of the view around her…

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…which I eventually gave up piecing together because a) my software couldn’t handle it and b) it puzzled me because I personally couldn’t see any reason for parking where she did and taking such an image there.

Thankfully other MER image fans didn’t give up quite so easily. One of the best “image processors” out there, James Sorenson, has given me permission to use his gorgeous image here…

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As impressive as a feat of image processing that is (and it is, trust me!), that view didn’t seem particularly interesting or inspiring to me; the rocks around her didn’t look anything special; there were no nests of alien eggs or martian hieroglyphics to be seen anywhere… and every day that passed when I went online and saw more images of the same place I grew more and more impatient, sighing and then growling “Oh come on, move…! What are you DOING still sat there?”

Now it all makes sense.

The latest fantastic MER Update from AJS Rayl on The Planetary Society’s blog reveals that as Oppy was about to trundle up out of The Valleys and start to head south she spotted some very interesting rocks sticking out of the top of the slope. Now, I;d seen these rocks on my own mosaics and hadn’t really paid much attention to them, even though, with hindsight, they clearly appear to be scoured, or scratched…

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…and the science team decided to send some time taking a good long look at them before exiting The Valleys – after all, they will not be back this way ever again. So, that’s why Opportunity ground to a halt mere feet from the top of the exit ramp, and now I feel slightly bad that I was so impatient! The MER science team know exactly what they’re doing, and everything they do they do for a reason.

Anyway, here’s a link to AJS’s very detailed report, and I’ll let her tell you all about the significance of the rock in question (AJS is also using some of my images in her reports again, so it’s lovely to be back on her Updates!). To go with that, here’s a mosaic view I made showing the close-up of the surface of those rocks…

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Opportunity also spotted a very cute little “pyramid” rock sticking up out of the ground at her feet/wheels… I wonder how long it will be before some nut job Mars Anomaly hunter re-posts this (without credit, of course) and declares it is a huge artificial structure built by a race of ancient, advanced martians..?

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..but the Big News for this post is… (roll on the drums…)…

OPPORTUNITY IS NOW BACK ON TOP OF CAPE TRIBULATION!!!

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I apologise for the very crude nature of that panorama and its stitching but my software just refused to make a good job if it, so I had to go back to “manual” and paste the separate images onto a single strip in my DTP software. Still, it gives you a good idea of Oppy’s location now. Here are a couple of colour views of features Oppy can see now..

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…and a colourised look back at those etched and scoured rocks…

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But wait, we have other news…

In her latest PS Update, AJS Rayl reports that “The Gully Without A Name” now has a name… everyone, say hello to…

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Here’s a colour view…

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How far away is that? It will take Opportunity a few weeks to get there, but when she does she is going to see some fascinating geology I think. It will be like a whole new mission.

Again..!

Check back soon for the latest pictures and news from this incredible journey across the surface of Mars.


NOTE: photo credit for all images used in this post, unless otherwise stated:

NASA / JPL-Caltech / Cornell / ASU / Stuart Atkinson

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