What does Mars look like? New NASA photos

What does Mars look like? New NASA photos

Photo Courtesy: AFP

After months of image collection, NASA released two new images from the surface of Mars on Sunday. Described by NASA as the 'Greeley Panorama' from the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, the first image documents the fifth Martian Winter of the mission.

The full-circle scene combines 817 images taken by the panoramic camera (Pancam) on Opportunity. NASA scientists say the image 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 (December 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 centre 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.

Opportunity's tracks can be seen extending from the south, with a turn-in-place and other manoeuvres evident from activities to position the rover at Greeley Haven.

In the second image, Opportunity used a low sun angle for a memorable view of a large Martian crater. The resulting view catches a shadow of the rover in the foreground and the giant basin in the distance. Opportunity is perched on the western rim of Endeavour Crater looking eastward.

The crater spans about 14 miles (22 kilometres) in diameter.

Opportunity has been studying the edge of Endeavour Crater since arriving there in August 2011. Opportunity and its rover twin, Spirit, completed their three-month prime missions on Mars in April 2004.

Both rovers continued for years of bonus, extended missions. Both have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favourable for supporting microbial life.

Spirit stopped communicating in 2010.

Since landing in the Meridiani region of Mars in January 2004, Opportunity has driven 21.4 miles (34.4 kilometres).
Story First Published: July 09, 2012 07:16 IST

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