Dark shadows on Mars: Scene from durable NASA rover

May 23, 2012 By Guy Webster, JPL/NASA
NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity catches its own late-afternoon shadow in this dramatically lit view eastward across Endeavour Crater on Mars. The rover used the panoramic camera (Pancam) between about 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. local Mars time to record images taken through different filters and combined into this mosaic view. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

(Phys.org) -- Like a tourist waiting for just the right lighting to snap a favorite shot during a stay at the Grand Canyon, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has 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 kilometers) in diameter. Opportunity has been studying the edge of Endeavour Crater since arriving there in August 2011.

The scene is presented in false color to emphasize differences in materials such as dark dunes on the crater floor. This gives portions of the image an aqua tint.

Opportunity took most of the component images on March 9, 2012, while the solar-powered rover was spending several weeks at one location to preserve energy during the . It has since resumed driving and is currently investigating a patch of windblown near its winter haven. 

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 favorable 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 kilometers).

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4.2 / 5 (6) May 23, 2012
I'd like to see a true-color image - the false-color images may be pretty but are fictional because they do not depict what the view really looks like.
5 / 5 (7) May 23, 2012

There are all the raw images from both rovers
5 / 5 (3) May 23, 2012
Thanks Mike. The images the rovers send are in black and white. They take lighting information from those images and extrapolate what the colors should be, so any color image from the rovers will be 'false color', even if they fill the colors in as close as they can to match reality. Hopefully the next lander will have better cameras.
5 / 5 (6) May 23, 2012
@TrinityComplex The colours aren't 'extrapolated'. The panoramic camera on the rover can select different filters when it takes pictures. This is exactly like a conventional digital camera which uses a Bayer filter to allow different pixels to register red, green or blue light. The main difference is that a conventional camera can register red, green and blue simultaneously, but has to interpolate to infer what the red value would be for a green pixel. The Mars rovers need no such interpolation, they can just take three separate pictures with red, reen and blue filters for every single pixel. And given that the rovers have more than three filters, they capture multispectral reality far better than a conventional RGB camera which is basically a "dumbed down" device adapted for human trichromaticity.
5 / 5 (3) May 23, 2012
Ah, you're right Sig. The original information I was given was inaccurate. Apparently each Pancam has 14 different filters. The explanation I was given for why every picture I've seen has been false color or black and white was a weight issue. Thanks for setting me straight.
3 / 5 (2) May 23, 2012
I'd like to see a true-color image - the false-color images may be pretty but are fictional because they do not depict what the view really looks like.

You realize that the cameras they use are not like consumer cameras and that they have limited wavelength sensitivity and/or filters on them correct? The raw images are mostly grayscale representations centered on a specific wavelength of light, the press release images, such as the one presented here, are composed of many of these raw images put together in a way that best estimates how the scene would look to the human eye.

In short, these "false color" images, as you call them, are actually the closest you are going to get to seeing what it would actually look like on Mars.
not rated yet May 24, 2012
Can someone explain why they cannot send a consumer type camera aswell? Or is there some reason why they didn`t. It would save time with layering images to show what it would look like. Saying that...they probably have software that does it automatically in a split second.
not rated yet May 24, 2012
Because sirchick it's very expensive to send stuff to mars. They send a CCD camera with filters because that way you can get very good scientific images (one camera can shoot the same scene in many wavelengths, from IR to near UV, just by swapping filters)
5 / 5 (2) May 24, 2012
The color comments have been a bit amusing. We probably have all seen the first 'true color' images NASA released from the Viking landings, with the sky a nice shade of Robins-egg blue. That must have been embarrassing to walk back, but at least it wasn't a lander burning up in the atmosphere.
These rovers have certainly been money well spent. I hope that future Mars colonists will have the foresight to just build a museum around whatever spot this rover finally decides to call home.

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