Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now Join Now!

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

   Please leave this field empty
Blogs

Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Shadows cast from Victoria's capes and bays

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

14-04-2008 15:51 CDT

Topics: pretty pictures, Opportunity, amateur image processing, Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, animation

This is from the "just plain cool" department. Among the many tasks assigned to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter imaging team is to create "digital elevation models," otherwise known as DEMs, for current and future landing sites on Mars. DEMs are, essentially, topographic maps; they're really valuable for rover missions especially, because they can tell you how steep slopes are, what directions they face, and where shadows will be cast at different times of day. Doug Ellison has been playing with a DEM that Randy Kirk and the other folks at the United States Geologic Survey have been working on for Victoria Crater, the spot that the Opportunity rover has been exploring since late 2006. He created an animation that flies a light source over the crater in the same path taken by the Sun in the sky at Mars.

You can see dawn come to the crater and the shadows slowly retreating into the eastern capes of the crater, then fill the crater again as the Sun sets in the west. In addition to watching the shadows move, you can see why the rover team chose Duck Bay (at the left side of the crater) as Opportunity's entry point -- it's a broader, flatter bay than any of the others. Even better, the nearby cliff of Cape Verde strikes almost east-west, which means that it casts very little shadow even near dawn and dusk, allowing the solar-powered rover to approach quite close to it before there is any impact on the amount of sunlight that strikes the panels. Here's the latest route map that I have, which gives some context.

Opportunity's route map to sol 1,491

NASA / JPL-Caltech / U. Arizona / Eduardo Tesheiner

Opportunity's route map to sol 1,491
As of sol 1,491 (April 3, 2008), Opportunity was inside Victoria Crater, carefully approaching Cape Verde to its northeast.

There are a couple of artifacts visible in the animations, particularly two sets of what look like railroad tracks crossing the area; these occur because of seams between individual HiRISE camera images that were used to create the DEMs.

While I'm speaking about the rovers, I should mention that this week's Planetary Radio features an interview with rover principal investigator Steve Squyres. Enjoy!

 
See other posts from April 2008

 

Or read more blog entries about: pretty pictures, Opportunity, amateur image processing, Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, animation

Comments:

Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Blog Search

JOIN THE
PLANETARY SOCIETY

Our Curiosity Knows No Bounds!

Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.

Join Us

Featured Images

The Pale Blue Dot of Earth

Scale comparison of comets visited by spacecraft as of 2014
OSIRIS view of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko on July 29, 2014
Instruments selected for the Mars 2020 rover
More Images

Featured Video

View Larger »

Fly to an Asteroid!

Travel to Bennu on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft!

Send your name

Join the New Millennium Committee

Let’s invent the future together!

Become a Member

Connect With Us

Facebook! Twitter! Google+ and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!