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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Opportunity almost on top of the world…

Overnight some new images came back from Opportunity showing that although she hadn’t trundled over it and onto higher, flatter ground, she had rolled right up to the top edge of the steep slope she has been edging up for what seems like an age now. And from her new vantage point not only can she see the mouth of Marathon Valley, which she dropped down into all those months ago, but can also see… finally… the beautiful faraway horizon…

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Oh, it is SO good to see that horizon again! The Valleys have been fascinating places to explore, undoubtedly, and have given the team some great science and given all of us some wonderful views too. But for months now Oppy has been a bit, well, hemmed in, with rocky walls on both sides as she zig-zagged her way down and then up out of Marathon Valley, and the scenery has been getting a bit, well… samey.

Since heading up from the crater floor, Opportunity has been a bit like a hill-walker who has been huffing and puffing her way up a hillside, eyes fixed on the route ahead, and the summit even further ahead. Now she has reached the final gate standing between her and the top of the hill and, understandably, has stopped to catch her breath and take a quick look around before pushing on the last few metres to the top.

And now Opportunity is almost back on the top of Cape Tribulation she can see, as The Who famously sang, for miles and miles and miles and miles and miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiles…

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The stunning image above is the work of image processing expert James Sorenson whose processing skills make me look like a kid playing about on an old ZX Spectrum. James specialises in stitching multiple images together to make beautiful panoramic views. He then adds a realistic sky to finish off the effect, and his work is amazing as you can see.

What I really love about the images that came down overnight is how they show the entrance to Marathon Valley off to Opportunity’s right. It’s quite exciting, I think, to be able to look back and see the feature Opportunity drove down into, all those months ago, from a different viewpoint. On the two pane collage below you can see Marathon Valley as it appeared to Oppy before she drove down into it way back on Sol 4078, in July 2015…

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That image on the left is a black and white crop from one of my own favourite images, shown below – a multi-frame colourised mosaic I made more than two years ago…

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Hopefully the next batch of images sent back by Opportunity will show she has finally rolled up out of the valley conpletely…

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Get on with it, Oppy…!

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Alright, Opportunity, enough. Stop grandstanding and messing about, and just drive the last few metres up that slope and roll up onto the top of the hill so you can have a well-earned rest and we can all enjoy the view from there…!

She hasn’t got far to go now, surely… here’s the view upslope a couple of days ago, which I haven’t had a chance to post until today, sorry… I reckon Oppy is right on the lip of that crest now, ready to tip over it and roll triumphantly onto the top of the hill again…

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I think the next batch of images sent back by Oppy will show she’s just one more drive away from leaving the valleys behind her and setting off south again, towards The Gully With No Name. Hopefully some pics will come down later today, and if they do I’ll be sure to update this post or, if there’s time, write a new one. Check back later. In the meantime, here, have a stitched together and processed mosaic of four really close-up images taken by Opportunity of the ground at her feet…

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Meanwhile, Curiosity is doing great work round at Gale Crater and sending back really pretty views of the rocks around her…

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One rock in particular caught my eye…

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…and when I looked more closely at other images sent back by Curiosity I was struck by how it was possible to do a kind of reverse “Powers Of Ten” with that one rock. So, here you are, a present to lose yourself in on a lazy Sunday… click on it to enlarge it, and as you do just take in the scale of what you’re looking at here. From L to R: a single greyish rock on the surface of Mars (top of frame), with countless millions of rocks scattered around it as far as the eye can see… then you see the rock itself, isolated on the surface… then you see the surface of the rock, with knobs, nobbles and dimples… then you see a close-up of one of those dimples… then, finally, a close-up of individual grains of martian dust and rock gathered in that dimple, blown there by the martian wind over who knows how any millions of years….

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More later πŸ™‚

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One more push…

…and Opportunity should finally be out of the valleys and back up on top of Cape Tribulation; the latest images show she is just one good drive away from reaching the top of the slope she has been chugging up these past few weeks, and later today, or more likely tomorrow, we should be able to see the path ahead, south towards The Gully With No Name…

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Meanwhile, Curiosity has reached the edge of the last great dune field between her and the actual base of Mt Sharp, and the photos she has been sending back are quite beautiful, showing exquisitely-fine detail on the surfaces of the dunes, carved and sculpted by the whispering martian wind… here are my processed versions of a couple of those images…

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Whilst looking at those images I saw one which appeared to show Curiosity’s robot arm trailing through the dust, and it looked – and felt – very familiar, prompting me to make this…

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Check back for more news on Oppy – and Curiosity, because I’m going to keep featuring that rover more now, now that it has reached some truly breathtaking scenery – soon…

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Different views…

Opportunity is continuing to work her way back up the eastern side of Cape Tribulation, in advance of going “over the top” and heading back down onto the Meridiani Plain, then rolling south at speed to The Gully. Here are some of her latest views…

Note: all original MER images Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Cornell

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I know what you’re thinking – “That would look better in colour…” Oh, ok, here you go…

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Looking back the other way you can see how Oppy has tracked uphill by following her tracks in the dust…

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But whereabouts is Opportunity now? Below is a very high resolution image I’ve made using NASA’s HiVIEW software and a HiRISE image of Endeavour’s hills. I’ve put a yellow circle where Oppy is at the moment, and an arrow shows the route she might take as she moves further up slope and prepares to drop down again…

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And where is The Gully in relation to where Oppy is now? Take a look… the arrows show a possible route the river will take to get there, a route which includes a brief visit to a small crater a little way out on the plain…

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As for The Gully itself, here’s a new close-up view I’ve made of it, using a HiRISE image…

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Can’t wait to get there and see that gully close-up; I’m sure Opportunity will do some fascinating science there. It’s about a kilometre away, maybe a little less, so I don’t think we’re looking at a long trip. Still, I suppose it depends on how many shiny things Opportunity is distracted by along the way…!

Meanwhile, Curiosity is seeing some absolutely stunning scenery at the moment. Here are my latest processed mosaics made from raw MSL images… please click on them to enlarge them. You’ll be glad you did, I promise πŸ™‚

Note: All original MSL images Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Malin Space Science Systems

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Very intrigued by all the flow patterns on the dust on the slopes in those last two images…

Check back soon to see if Opportunity has made itΒ  to the top of the hill yet.

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Almost there…

I think, I think Opportunity is just about to reach the top of the hill…

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Meanwhile, Curiosity is sending back simply beautiful images from Gale Crater, showing a bewildering variety of rocks. I made the following mosaics by processing and the stitching-together some of the latest images sent back by the rover. As ever, click on them to enlarge them…

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Almost there, Opportunity…

Having just marked the 13th anniversary of her landing on Mars, Opportunity is now approaching the top of the slope she has been climbing for the past few weeks. It won’t be long now until she gets to the top and then heads down the other side of the hills, and begins her trek towards the gully further to the south. Here’s her latest view…

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Meanwhile, The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity has been sending back some beautiful images of the rocks around her, as she steadily works her way towards the foothills of Mt Sharp. I’ve stitched around 25 of them together and processed the resulting mosaic a touch to make what I hope is a very striking portrait of the geological diversity around Curiosity. So, having done that I invite you to click on the image below and spend some time just wandering around it at your leisure, taking in all the different sized, shapes and textured rocks. You’re welcome. πŸ™‚

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Here’s a crop of my favourite area of that sweeping panorama…

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…and finally for this time, I wanted to share with you another Curiosity view that caught my eye, which just shows that the most beautiful Mars images aren’t always the widescreen sweeping vistas of the planet’s magnificent “Big Country” landscape… this is a view of the ground at Curiosity’s feet, showing some beautiful, wind-blown rippling dust dunes…

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Check back soon to see the new scenery when Oppy gets to the top of that rise… should be a lovely view…!

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