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Press Release Images: Opportunity
13-Dec-2004
Mars Rovers Spot Water-Clue Mineral, Frost, Clouds
Full Press Release
 
'Burns Cliff' Color Panorama
'Burns Cliff' Color Panorama

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity captured this view of "Burns Cliff" after driving right to the base of this southeastern portion of the inner wall of "Endurance Crater." The view combines frames taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera between the rover's 287th and 294th martian days (Nov. 13 to 20, 2004).

This is a composite of 46 different images, each acquired in seven different Pancam filters. It is an approximately true-color rendering generated from the panoramic camera's 750-nanometer, 530-nanometer and 430-nanometer filters. The mosaic spans more than 180 degrees side to side. Because of this wide-angle view, the cliff walls appear to bulge out toward the camera. In reality the walls form a gently curving, continuous surface.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
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Clouds over 'Endurance' on Sol 290
Clouds over 'Endurance' on Sol 290

Clouds add drama to the sky above "Endurance Crater" in this mosaic of frames taken by the navigation camera on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity at about 9:30 a.m. on the rover's 290th sol (Nov. 16, 2004). The view spans an arc from east on the left to the southwest on the right.

These clouds are part of a band that forms near the equator when Mars is near the part of its orbit that is farthest from the Sun. For Opportunity (and Spirit and the rest of the southern hemisphere), this occurs in late fall and early winter. During this period, atmospheric temperatures and the amount of water vapor combine to form large-scale clouds. These clouds look like Earth's cirrus clouds and share other similarities with cirrus clouds in that they are believed to be composed entirely of water-ice particles with sizes on the order of several micrometers (a few ten-thousandths of an inch).

The images that are combined to produce this view have been processed to remove geometrical distortion associated with the camera's 45-degree field of view. In addition, special image processing has been applied to enhance the clouds and make them visible across the entire mosaic. The rim of Endurance was processed using the same technique, illustrating how much enhancement was done. Glare from the Sun washed out the clouds on the left in the original images; this glare was removed.

Image credit: NASA/JPL
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Clouds over 'Endurance' on Sol 291
Clouds over 'Endurance' on Sol 291

Clouds appear in the martian sky above "Endurance Crater" in this mosaic of frames taken by the navigation camera on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity during the morning of the rover's 291st sol (Nov. 17, 2004). The view spans an arc from the east on the left to the southwest on the right.

Opportunity has observed differences in cloudiness from one sol to the next, a reminder that Mars, like Earth, has daily weather as well as longer-term seasonal changes.

The images that are combined to produce this view have been processed to remove geometrical distortion associated with the camera's 45-degree field of view. In addition, special image processing has been applied to the original images to enhance the clouds and make them visible across the entire mosaic. Glare from the Sun washed out the clouds on the left in the original images; this glare was removed. The left-most image in this mosaic contains some artifacts from pointing the camera toward the Sun. The rim of Endurance has been processed separately and merged back with the sky to better show the context.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
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Frost on Mars Rover Opportunity
Frost on Mars Rover Opportunity

Frost can form on surfaces if enough water is present and the temperature is sufficiently low. On each of NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers, the calibration target for the panoramic camera provides a good place to look for such events. A thin frost was observed by Opportunity's panoramic camera on the rover's 257th sol (Oct. 13, 2004) 11 minutes after sunrise (left image). The presence of the frost is most clearly seen on the post in the center of the target, particularly when compared with the unsegmented outer ring of the target, which is white. The post is normally black. For comparison, note the difference in appearance in the image on the right, taken about three hours later, after the frost had dissipated. Frost has not been observed at Spirit, where the amount of atmospheric water vapor is observed to be appreciably lower. Both images were taken through a filter centered at a wavelength of 440 nanometers (blue).

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
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Seasonal Trend in Water Vapor Seen from Orbit
Seasonal Trend in Water Vapor Seen from Orbit

The seasonal trend in the amount of water vapor in Mars' atmosphere, as observed by thermal emission spectrometer on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter, varies by latitude. This plot starts near the beginning of fall in the southern hemisphere for the year before the Mars Exploration Rover mission began and ends on August 30, 2004, slightly more than one martian year later. Purple represents no water while red represents about 50 precipitable micrometers, which is about 10,000 times less than on Earth. The units of time along the horizontal axis are given in longitude of the Sun (Ls) as measured in a Mars-centered coordinate system, a way to reflect the elliptical nature of Mars' orbit. On this scale, Mars is farthest from the Sun at about 74, which also corresponds to late fall in the southern hemisphere.

During the period when Mars is farthest from the Sun, the migration of water vapor from the northern polar region combines with lowered atmospheric temperatures to produce conditions that allow formation of clouds such as seen in the image "Clouds over 'Endurance' on Sol 290" . Opportunity is further north than Spirit is, so there is a distinct difference in the amount of water vapor available to form water-ice clouds over the two sites. To date, Spirit has not seen any discrete, cirrus-like clouds such as Opportunity has photographed. Although water vapor is expected to reach a maximum abundance for the Opportunity and Spirit sites near spring equinox (Ls 180 or about March 2005), the atmospheric temperatures will very likely have warmed sufficiently to prevent formation of the type of clouds that Opportunity has observed recently.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/ASU/GSFC
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Angled Layers in Super Resolution
Angled Layers in Super Resolution

Researchers used a special imaging technique with the panoramic camera on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity to get as detailed a look as possible at a target region near eastern foot of "Burns Cliff." The intervening terrain was too difficult for driving the rover closer. The target is the boundary between two sections of layered rock. The layers in lower section (left) run at a marked angle to the layers in next higher section (right).

This view is the product of a technique called super resolution. It was generated from data acquired on sol 288 of Opportunity's mission (Nov. 14, 2004) from a position along the southeast wall of "Endurance Crater." Resolution slightly higher than normal for the panoramic camera was synthesized for this view by combining 17 separate images of this scene, each one "dithered" or pointed slightly differently from the previous one. Computer manipulation of the individual images was then used to generate a new synthetic view of the scene in a process known mathematically as iterative deconvolution, but referred to informally as super resolution. Similar methods have been used to enhance the resolution of images from the Mars Pathfinder mission and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
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Seasonal Air Temperatures Above Opportunity
Seasonal Air Temperatures Above Opportunity

This graph shows the seasonal trend of air temperatures 100 meters (328 feet) above NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity from late summer (left) to mid-winter (right) of Mars' southern hemisphere. The temperatures were measured with the rover's miniature thermal emission spectrometer. The colors represent different times of day: purple for early morning, green for midday, red for late afternoon. The measured temperatures range from about 200 Kelvin (minus 100 Fahrenheit) to 250 Kelvin (minus 10 Fahrenheit). The units of time along the horizontal axis are given in longitude of the Sun (Ls) as measured in a Mars-centered coordinate system, a way to reflect the elliptical nature of Mars' orbit. On this scale, Mars is farthest from the Sun at about 74, which also corresponds to late fall in the southern hemisphere.

The same cooling trend as seen for the 100-meter height in this graph also has been measured for higher regions of the atmosphere. In particular, the changes at 5 to 10 kilometers (3 to 6 miles) high are such that water-ice clouds will form when Mars is farthest from the Sun. At other parts of the Mars year, if clouds form at all, they will be found generally above 25 kilometers (16 miles), where there is significantly less water vapor.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/ASU/SSI
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Farewell Glance at 'Endurance'
Farewell Glance at 'Endurance'

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity climbed out of "Endurance Crater" during the rover's 315th sol (Dec. 12, 2004), and used its front hazard-avoidance camera to look back across the crater from the rim. The rover spent just over six months inside the stadium-sized crater, examining in detail the tallest stack of bedrock layers ever seen up close on a foreign planet.

Image credit: NASA/JPL
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Out of 'Endurance,' Heading South
Out of 'Endurance,' Heading South

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity climbed out of "Endurance Crater" during the rover's 315th sol (Dec. 12, 2004), and used its rear hazard-avoidance camera to look out across the plains south of the crater. After Opportunity examines the nearby heat shield that protected it during its descent through Mars' atmosphere, the rover team plans to drive the rover south to a rugged region described as etched terrain.

Image credit: NASA/JPL
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