London: NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has captured the most spectacular picture of Mars.
From fresh rover tracks to an impact crater blasted billions of years ago, the newly completed view from the panoramic camera on Opportunity shows the ruddy terrain where the voyaging robot spent the Martian winter.
Images from the mast-mounted colon camera include the rover’s own solar arrays and deck in the foreground, a newspaper reported.
Completed by combing 817 images taken by the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. One scene shows the terrain that surrounded the rover while it was stationary for four months of work during its most recent Martian winter.
Opportunity’s Pancam took the component images between the 2,811th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s Mars surface mission (Dec. 21, 2011) and Sol 2,947 (May 8, 2012).
Opportunity spent those months on a northward sloped outcrop, ‘Greeley Haven,’ which angled the rover’s solar panels toward the sun low in the northern sky during southern hemisphere winter.
The outcrop’s informal name is a tribute to Ronald Greeley (1939-2011), who was a member of the mission team and who taught generations of planetary scientists at Arizona State University, Tempe. The site is near the northern tip of the ‘Cape York’ segment of the western rim of Endeavour Crater.
North is at the center of the image. South is at both ends. On the far left at the horizon is ‘Rich Morris Hill.’ That outcrop on Cape York was informally named in memory of John R. ‘Rich’ Morris (1973-2011), an aerospace engineer and musician who was a Mars rover team member and mission manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena.
Bright wind-blown deposits on the left are banked up against the Greeley Haven outcrop. Opportunity’s tracks can be seen extending from the south, with a turn-in-place and other maneuvers evident from activities to position the rover at Greeley Haven. The tracks in some locations have exposed darker underlying soils by disturbing a thin, bright dust cover.
Other bright, dusty deposits can be seen to the north, northeast, and east of Greeley Haven. The deposit at the center of the image, due north from the rover’s winter location, is a dusty patch called ‘North Pole’. Opportunity drove to it and investigated it in May 2012 as an example of wind-blown Martian dust.
The interior of Endeavour Crater can been seen just below the horizon in the right half of the scene, to the northeast and east of Cape York. The crater spans 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter.
Opportunity’s solar panels and other structures show dust that has accumulated over the lifetime of the mission. Opportunity has been working on Mars since January 2004.
The panorama combines exposures taken through Pancam filters centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet). The view is presented in false color to make some differences between materials easier to see.
Its release this week coincides with two milestones: Opportunity completing its 3,000th Martian day on July 2, and NASA continuing past 15 years of robotic presence at Mars on July 4.
“The view provides rich geologic context for the detailed chemical and mineral work that the team did at Greeley Haven over the rover’s fifth Martian winter, as well as a spectacularly detailed view of the largest impact crater that we’ve driven to yet with either rover over the course of the mission,” said Pancam lead scientist Jim Bell.
Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, landed on Mars in January 2004 for missions originally planned to last for three months.