Visions of Home…?

If you were standing on Mars beside Curiosity what would you see? Well, obviously rocks – a lot of rocks. And boulders. And stones.

What about if you tore your eyes away from the ground, away from the scenery around you, and looked up, what would you see then? The sky, of course – the huge, open, (almost) cloudless martian sky, a huge cathedral dome of butterscotch, lemon and pink –

In the daytime, that is. The dawn or dusk sky is very different, more metallic blue/grey in colour. And if you’re lucky, at certain times, you would see a bright planet shining in the sky just above the horizon too. And if you were REALLY lucky, one of those planets would be…


Imagine seeing that. Earth, shining in the martian sky! What would that look like?

It would look like this, actually…

That image was taken by the Mars Exploration Rover SPIRIT on March 8th 2004. And that little white dot, centre, is Earth. ( On the original raw image, Earth was harder to see; the above pic was enhanced – not by myself – to make Earth more obvious ).

Now, I don’t know about you, but looking at that image I can’t help but wonder what kind of portrait of Earth Curiosity would be able to take, with her more advanced cameras and “extended working hours”. If she ever gets the chance, that is.

Turns out she has a perfect chance – right now… 🙂

This is what Curiosity is seeing at the moment, looking east as the sky brightens before dawn breaks over Gale Crater…

Wow… look at that… Earth shining in the martian dawn, with Jupiter beneath it… and Mt Sharp to their right… what a photograph that would make! Seen in close-up…

Earth and Jupiter shining amongst the stars and star clusters of Taurus… I’d love to see that…

But can Curiosity take such a picture? Is she able to do “astrophotography” like this? I’ll have to try and find out from someone on the MSL team. In the meantime, let’s get in the Gale Gazette’s own private TARDIS and jump forwards in time to October 29th…

Now THAT would be something to see, a close conjunction of Earth and Jupiter! By the 29th the planets will have changed places – Earth will be nearer to the horizon than Jupiter. Who wouldn’t love to see a colour Curiosity portrait of such a planetary pairing?

I hope they at least try to take some pictures of this, but if they don’t, for whatever reason (and they will be rather busy I imagine, preparing to scoop up the first dust sample), well, I’m sure they will at some point, if only for the slap-across-the-face obvious Outreach value of such a portrait.

Note: these views were created using the freeware Stellarium software, with a brilliant and beautiful landscape file created by the forum’s Ant103. Thanks, Ant!


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