More MSL magic!

For the second day running we have a huge batch of crystal clear, hi resolution, colour images from Curiosity to drool over! Images like this…

 

Lovely detail visible on the hills in the background there.

So, if you take 21 of those, stitch them together and tidy ’em up a bit, what do you get? This… (you’ll need to click on it to enlarge it, as you probably guessed..!)

One section of that panorama stands out – over on the right hand side, where we can see some of thefoothills of Mt Sharp in really lovely detail. Take a look..

But not just horizon shots came down today, some more close-ups of the surface came back too…

Coming soon: images showing Mars’ largest moon, Phobos, crossing the face of the Sun…!

Magnificent Mars…

Oh boy…
A whole bunch of images came back from Curiosity today that… wait for it… YOU CAN SEE ACTUAL ROCKS ON!!! Yes, real images of Mars, rocks, dust and sky, that aren’t ruined by that godawful migraine-inducing cross-hatch Bayer filter pattern!! Here’s one of them…

YES! Look at that! THAT’S what we’ve been missing! THAT’S what we’ve wanted to see from the start, isn’t it? Maybe the calibration phase is over, and this is the beam of light at the end of the Bayer tunnel, and from now on we’ll be seeing lots more images that don’t need a James Bond gadget to see them… hope so!

Anyway, a whole bunch of these came down, like I said, and to my delight they all linked up to form a big, biiiiiiiig panoramic mosaic. And here it is. Obviously you’ll need to click on it to enlarge it… and I’ll warn you, it’s a big image, you can kiss the next few minutes goodbye because you’ll be panning around it for a while…

I love that picture, it really is the first real mosaic I’ve made which does Curiosity’s hunting ground justice. I really, really hope we get more images like those soon.

In the meantime, some more simple black and white images came back too, but thes were also without the Bayer filter effect, so I was able to stack a few together, sharpen them up, and what came out the other end was a rather breathtaking view of the dusty terrain between where Curiosity is and the foothills of Mt Sharp.

There’s a lot of detail in that image that hasn’t been apparrent before. Those dust dunes are… big, aren’t they? That’s not going to be straightforward driving; those dunes are nothing like the gentle, ankle-dusting dunes seen and crossed by Opportunity as she rolled towards Cape York. Those guys mean business.

More soon – and more images, I’m sure; Curiosity is just about checked out, and will start driving serious distances soon.

Buckle up. It’s about to get interesting… ๐Ÿ™‚

Look at *me*!!!

Curiosity is taking, and sending back, a LOT of beautiful images of herself. Not because she’s vain or anything; they’re essential for the rover’s team to check that she’s in good health and ready to start the next leg of her journey across the floor of Gale Crater, to Glenelg, the region where three different types of geology come together to form one big choolate eclair of a science target. Rather than show those here, just for the sake of it, I’ll direct you to a website set up by one of the brilliant members of the unmannedspaceflight forum, which displays images from MSL almost “live” as they reach Earth and are displayed by JPL. If you’re serious about following Curiosity’s adventure on Mars, or if you just want to drop in on her from time to time to see what she’s up to, this is the place to go…

knapp msl viewer

That’s the site I use, rather than the official MSL one, because it’s laid out so much better, and actually flags up “new” images which have come in since the last time you visited. It’s brilliant! Anyway, take a look there now and you’ll see lots of hi-resolution pictures of Curiosity’s own hardware, which are crystal clear and really show what a magnificent piece of engineering the rover is.

But I’m happy to see that Curiosity is now sending back a few hi resolution colour images of the actual surface of Mars now, too! There are still lots of those godawful ghostly-grey, Bayer filtered, cross-hatched effing monstrosities, but over the last couple of days a couple of lovely colour images of, well, you know, real martian **rocks** ! Images like this..

Yaaay! Look at those rocks! And you don’t need to run it through a Cray supercomputer, or cast a magic spell on it to see them! Here’s another…

And another one, which zooms in on the rocks shown above…

Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!! Look at those colours, at the textures and shapes of, and in, the rocks! You can almost feel that dust can’t you? Almost feel like you’re breathing it in. That‘s what Mars is really like – a dusty, dry desert. I love that picture. Hopefully there’ll be a lot more like it appearing for us to enjoy soon! ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m ready for my close-up now…

Well, the cover of the MAHLI camera has come off, and like a Japanese tourist walking around Castlerigg Stone Circle, Curiosity is crazily snapping lots of pictures of herself. Eventually there’ll be enough to make a complete “self portrait” of the rover – probably the most anticipated ‘space image’ since those pictures of the shuttle docked to the ISS which were taken by a departing Soyuz crew a couple of years ago. Today we have enough images to see the lower half of the rover, and I’ll show you a stunning mosaic of those created by one of my great friends over on UMSF, but for now just marvel at a couple of the individual images…

 

That second image is a killer, isn’t it? Just look at it closely for a moment, imagine you’re standing in front of it in an art galley or museum, taking it in… look at the dust clinging to the already battered-looking wheels… the shadow of the rover on the rocky ground… the details on the hills behind it… the spiky treads of the rover’s wheels… the cables snaking into the wheels, tied together by hand… THAT was built by people, amazing people, brilliant people, dedicated people. And those wheels will take Curiosity to the foothlls of a towering martian mountain, up to and then through a Wild West landscape of crumbling orange mesa and buttes, to a place where it might, might, find evidence that Mars was once a place where life might have existed. Magical.

Now… that mosaic… my great and talented friend AstroO from the UMSF forum has stitched together a whole bunch of these images into a single, breathtaking mosaic, and I know he won’t mind me showing it here. So, take a look at this next image… imagine you’re kneeling on the ground in front of Curiosity, between its front wheels, looking up at it through your camera, taking its picture… THIS is *EXACTLY* what you’d see…

There’s a full resolution version on his blog, here

I know that AstroO will complete the mosaic when the rest of the images come in, and I’ll post that here too. That’s going to be a thing of beauty, to be sure.

You looking at me? You looking at ME?

I know I’m probably the last blogger in this arm of the Milky Way to write about this image, but hey, I’ve a life *offline* too! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Anyway, I’m sure some of you won’t have seen it yet, so here we go.

For a long time now – a LONG time – we’ve been looking forward to Curiosity taking pictures of herself with the camera mounted on the end of her robot arm. Because the arm is so long, and the camera on the end of it so brilliant, we’ve known for a long time that when the time came to extend the arm and look back with the instrument turret’s MAHLI camera we’d see something special, and yesterday morning, when the pictures reached the internet, we weren’t disappointed.

But going back just a little, here’s a picture *of* that instrument ‘turret’ on the end of the robot arm, taken by one of Curiosity’s main cameras…

I really like that even though it’s only in black and white, because it shows the turret pointing towards “The Promised Land”, that area of Mt Sharp’s foothills where Curiosity will eventually make “landfall” at the base opf the mountain and then start climbing up through the rough terrain, past and around and between all those glorious mesas, buttes and ridges. That’s kind of a “We’re going THATAWAY!” picture, I think!

Anyway, Curiosity took a LOT of imagesof that turret, which was turned around and up and down so it could be photographed from lots of different angles, so it could be properly checked out. When that was completed, the turret then turned around so its camera was facing the rover…

Where’s the camera? Well, in the centre of that image there’s a small pinkish circle, see? Here, take a closer look…

That pink disc is actually a lens cap – actually a cover that slides over it, not a “cap” in that way, oh, you know what I mean! – covering the MAHLI camera. It’s important to keep this camera’s lens covered as much as posisble, because Mars is a very dusty place, especially at ground level where this camera will be doing much of its work, so that lens capย is going to be on a lot more than it’s off.

Anyway… the camera was turned to face the rover.. and like many of us do, or have done, whilst visiting a new place, she took her own photo, showing herself against the landscape…

Wow… look at that… even though Curiosity is dimmed and blurred because the picture was taken *through* the lens cap (this time, they’ll take it off for a ‘proper’ picture soon I’m sure) it’s beautiful, isn”t it? You can clearly see the different cameras on the mast – the ‘eyes’ in Curiosity’s ‘head’ as it were – and it’s just a lovely picture, don’t you agree? Of course, with a bit of work it can be cleaned up and sharpened to look even better…

That’s more like it…ย  a lot more detail on the rover’s head, plus rocks on the surface, and detail on the horizon too. And the right way round, too! The “cover-off” picture, when it’s taken, is going to be jaw-droppingly brilliant, isn’t it? (Though, to be honest, I really like that burnt orange/sepia tone caused by the image being taken through the dust cover…)

But make no mistake, even dimmed by a dusty lens cap, that’s a classic image, an historic image, a landmark image. This is a self-portrait taken by a roboton the surface Of Another Planet. Just think about that for a moment, think on the significance of that. That picture, up there, will- or should – be in every astronomy book, certainly every astronomy book on Mars and/or the solar system – from now on. That is iconic. Curiosity will take lots more pictures of herself, but there could only ever be one FIRST picture of herself, and that is It.

As incredible as that image is to us, viewing it from the comfort of our sofas, offices or studies, I have to wonder what it feels like for the people who conceived, built and launched Curiosity. What must it be like to watch something being built, piece by piece, to see it slowly taking shape, maybe even to touch and feel it when no-one else is looking, just to say you’ve had some physical connection with it, and then to see it hurled off into deep space on the very top of a very long and very explosive bomb, and THEN to see it looking at you from your computer monitor, with the hills of Gale Crater’s horizon behind it and rocks scattered all around it? I can’t even BEGIN to imagine what that must feel like, but it must be a very special feeling indeed. And I hope everyone who worked on MSL, at every stage of its development, takes a moment to look at that picture and smile and tell themselves “I helped get that there… I helped make that…!”

As for what else Curiosity is up to, well, she’s been making slow but sure progress towards Glenelg, ready and eager to do some real science. She’s been photographing her suroundings and the rocks around her, but the images being displayed for sharing with the world are still ruined by that bloody hideous, godawful Bayer pattern, and are fit for nothing, so I’m not even going to bother to try and process them or post them here; life’s too short and I just can’t be arsed, sorry, especially when on the other side of Mars Oppy is sending back spectacular images of the ancient rocks on the rim of Endeavour crater. Come on NASA, JPL, MSL team, whoever it may concern, you really need to stop ****ing about and show us Mars properly now, it’s been a month.

Looking forward to seeing that cap-off self portrait of Curiosity soon!