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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

New orbital images of Curiosity landing site from Mars Express and HiRISE

Posted By Emily Lakdawalla

23-05-2014 18:30 CDT

Topics: pretty pictures, pics of spacecraft in space, Mars Express, spacecraft, Mars, Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory), Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on Mars Express produces color images covering large swaths of Mars. In July of last year, they obtained a very nicely framed color image that includes all of Gale crater and some of the terrain beyond. I tip my hat to Doug Ellison for noticing this image release and pulling it out of the data archives:

HRSC swath across Gale Crater

ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G. Neukum) / Doug Ellison

HRSC swath across Gale Crater
An especially high-quality High Resolution Stereo Camera image covers all of Gale Crater in color. It was captured on July 27, 2013, or Curiosity sol 346.

Curiosity's in the photo, but you can't see it; despite its name, the High-Resolution Stereo Camera can't achieve the resolution necessary to spot Curiosity or any of its (very slight) effects on Gale. At its full resolution, this image has 25-meter pixels. What's this image good for, then? My favorite thing to do with relatively low resolution color data is to use it to colorize high-resolution but monochrome data. The nicest camera for creating maps of regions on Mars is the Context Camera (CTX) on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. CTX produces beautiful, crisp photos at 6 meters per pixel. Here's what it looks like when you colorize the CTX data with the HRSC data, or just enjoy this before & after colorization comparison:

Before & After: Colorizing a higher-resolution monochrome image with lower-resolution color data
Before & After: Colorizing a higher-resolution monochrome image with lower-resolution color data
 

NASA / JPL / MSSS / ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G. Neukum) / Tanya Harrison / Emily Lakdawalla

Before & After: Colorizing a higher-resolution monochrome image with lower-resolution color data
The base image (left) is a monochrome view from the Context Camera (CTX) on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. On the right, it has been colorized with lower-resolution color data from the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on Mars Express.

However, even CTX can't see fine enough details to see Curiosity. For that, we need HiRISE. I've catalogued the HiRISE images covering Gale crater before, and since my last update to that post there have been two new relevant images. One of the new HiRISE images has, for the first time, covered all of Murray Buttes in color. It does half the job of filling in what had been a big gap in HiRISE color coverage over the likely future Curiosity traverse; I can only assume there's another image request in the pipeline to finish the last gap in that coverage.

Here's the color part over Murray Buttes. It's fun to zoom way in on this one and look for rover-sized boulders at the bases of the buttes. It's going to be an interesting landscape to drive through, once we finally get there.

Murray Buttes in color

NASA / JPL / UA / Emily Lakdawalla

Murray Buttes in color
A HiRISE image of the landscape of buttes and polygonally fractured bedrock that represents a passage for Curiosity through the black sand dunes between her landing site and Mount Sharp. The photo was taken on March 14, 2014. Lower-resolution color data has been used to colorize a higher-resolution monochrome image. The full image is about 1 kilometer wide.

One of the two new photos also covered Curiosity just as she had driven to the north edge of the Kimberley. Curiosity and her tracks are located at the extreme right edge of the photo, far from the color strip at the center of the HiRISE image. But that's easy to fix, with the same trick I used above. I use my handy-dandy guide to HiRISE coverage of the Curiosity landing site to locate a HiRISE color image of the same area taken from just about the same angle -- this one works well -- and colorize the new photo. Et voilà!

Curiosity at the north edge of the Kimberley, sol 581

NASA / JPL / UA / Emily Lakdawalla

Curiosity at the north edge of the Kimberley, sol 581
The HiRISE photo of Curiosity at the Kimberley was taken from orbit on March 26, 2014. It was sol 581 on the Curiosity mission, and the rover had just bumped a couple of meters toward the north edge of the outcrop of the "striated unit" at the Kimberley. The photo has been colorized with data from an earlier HiRISE image taken on August 4, 2010.

For thoroughness' sake, here is my new map of color HiRISE coverage of the Curiosity landing site. There is now only one HiRISE image worth of the whole area that Curiosity is likely ever to traverse that has not yet been covered in color. Get on that, HiPlanners! :)

Color HiRISE swaths covering the Curiosity field site (updated May 23 2014)

NASA / JPL / MSSS / UA / Emily Lakdawalla

Color HiRISE swaths covering the Curiosity field site (updated May 23 2014)
 
See other posts from May 2014

 

Read more blog entries about: pretty pictures, pics of spacecraft in space, Mars Express, spacecraft, Mars, Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory), Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Comments:

Shreerang Kaulgi: 05/24/2014 09:18 CDT

While on the subject, how is maven doing? When will it be in news again?

Superluminal: 05/24/2014 05:04 CDT

These are fantastic. Have they tried to image the Viking sites lately?

Bob Ware: 05/24/2014 07:39 CDT

Great article Emily. Thanks! That's a great question from Superliminal.... It would be great to see what the Viking landers look like after all of these decades!

Thomas Tamlyn: 05/26/2014 10:55 CDT

Google is your friend for questions like this one. Google HiRISE images of Viking landers and bob's your uncle.

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