Larry CrumplerOct 15, 2014

Field Report from Mars: Sol 3808 — October 10, 2014

Opportunity continues to work its way up Wdowiak Ridge as it ascends southward along the rim of Endeavour crater. Currently Opportunity is examining some rocks that were excavated and thrown out of a nearby small impact crater, Ulysses crater. 

Opportunity's positions leading up to sol 3808
Opportunity's positions leading up to sol 3808 NASA / JPL-Caltech / NMMNH / Larry Crumpler

The various positions occupied by Opportunity as it works its way around several rock targets are shown on this overhead view of the local Navcam panoramas.

Opportunity's target rock as of sol 3808
Opportunity's target rock as of sol 3808 NASA / JPL-Caltech

We are trying to get a good look at this rock that is currently in front of Opportunity. It is odd because it has a slabby layer or coating on the outside, yet is a different composition than most of the rocks along the crater rim. The abundance of small rocks from the nearby crater ejecta is proving difficult to step around without slipping and tripping.

Pancam view of target rock
Pancam view of target rock NASA / JPL-Caltech / Cornell / ASU

This is a view of the desired target in the Pancam image from this location. Nice and smooth.

Comet Siding Spring encounters Mars
Comet Siding Spring encounters Mars Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will make a very close approach to Mars in October 2014. Photo-montage Credits: Orbiter.ch Aerospace / Acknowledgment: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Dr. Carey M. Lisse (correct orientation of the comet).

Opportunity will become a comet flyby mission beginning in mid-October. The comet Siding Spring will zoom past Mars at a distance of about 135,000 km on October 19. There will be several opportunities to observe it in the days leading up to the flyby. In preparation for making the observation we have been doing a series of tests of the pointing and correct exposure, among other things.

Opportunity's observation plans for Comet Siding Spring
Opportunity's observation plans for Comet Siding Spring

Mark Lemmon and the Pancam team have been working on the geometry, and here are a few images that give you an idea of the plan. The observation will occur before the sun is up and at an elevation of about 60 degrees above the horizon, so a scenic shot will be pretty much impossible. We are thinking about maybe getting images after sunrise so we will have a composite image to work with.

Comet Siding Spring's position in the sky relative to Opportunity's current location
Comet Siding Spring's position in the sky relative to Opportunity's current location NASA / JPL-Caltech / NMMNH / Larry Crumpler

To get a sense of the geometry, here is the current view across the floor of the 12-mile-wide Endeavour crater, looking east. I have very roughly indicated where the comet will be according to current predictions. During our first attempt at imaging before closest approach, the comet will be about 60 degrees above the horizon.

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