The scale of things…

There was another press conference by the MSL team yesterday, and some beautiful new images were released, a couple of which have been picked up by the mass media and are being heralded as “The most detailed images ever taken of Mars”. They’re the latest high resolution images taken by the rover’s Mastcam, and the portraits of the mesas, buttes, ledges and layers waiting for Curiosity in “The Promised Land” when/if she gets there are genuinely stunning. Here’s the one which is **everywhere** today, and justifiably so…

Isn’t that spectacular???!! I wish I knew more about geology so I could tell what the hell I was seeing there! But even my untrained eye can see lots and lots of lovely layers, and different kinds of rock, and eroded features, and… well, if I can see things like that, just imagine how excited the geologists on the mission must be feeling! I bet they can’t wait to get there!

But they’ll have to, because those features are a long way off. Another image released by the team yesterday very helpfully showed the distances to those features…

I love pictures like that, they really help to give you a sense of scale don’t they?

Well, that one certainly helps us appreciate the scale of the *distances* involved, but doesn’t really tell us how big those faraway features are, does it? Or does it..?

Another image was released yesterday, which DOES tell us just that. Very cleverly, the MSL team have spotted a rock way, waaay over there which is roughly the same size as the rover (you can see it in the box on the image), so now we can directly compare the size of the landforms and features over there to the rover!

Now… when I saw that I had a bit of a “lightbulb moment”. I wondered if it would be possible to identify that very same rock on images of the Promised Land taken from orbit, and then use it to virtually place Curiosity *among* all those mesas and buttes, to simulate HiRISE images of Curiosity exploring the landscape and give us a REAL sense of scale..?

And yes, it wasn’t just possible, it worked really well!🙂

Ok, so, let’s have a look at a few simulated HiRISE views… on the following images – which you’ll need to click on to enlarge if you’re going to have a hope of seeing anything! –  Curiosity is represented as a series of small black dots, joined by a dark ‘line’ running from top to bottom, which represents an **imaginary** traverse through the landscape. NOTE: this is just a very rough guide, I’m not claiming 100% accuracy here, ok?

And finally…

I think that works pretty well. But it works even better if you plot an **IMAGINARY** traverse through that amazing landscape, seeing just how big Curiosity is compared to these incredible martian rock ormations. You need to click on this next image to enlarge it, then look to the upper right, find the traverse line, and then just scroll down the image, following our mock Curiosity as she wends her way through The Promised Land… Go, have fun wandering around, I’ll wait for you…🙂

But what would REALLY bring the scale of this area to life would be to see it, and Curiosity, together in 3D, right? Well, I can’t do that – dropping virtual Curiositys into the landscape on a 3D pic just doesn’t work – but by highlighting features *in* the landscape that are the same size as the rover we can begin to grasp the sheer size of the geological ruins Curiosity will encounter maybe a year from now. So, take a look at these next images – the rocks ringed are the same size (roughly) as MSL…

Note: Curiosity is actually a little larger than the feature within the ring on that second 3D image, but there isn’t anything the correct size in the area that I can use, sorry!

I’ve also started trying to identify certain landscape features on photos taken from different viewpoints by different probes…

So, there you go. Hope all that helps!

Back to ground level, and we have new images showing Curiosity is really getting the hang of this “roving” thing…

And some 3D views of the rocks scattered around Curiosity, too…


There’s not an awful lot to see there is there? Kind of makes you miss the boulder-strewn landing sites of Spirit and the Vikings…

Anyway, that’s all for now. Check back soon.

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