Curiosity on Mars and Venus Transit
I wasn’t really planning a post today, but with the ether abuzz about news on the Curiosity rover, I thought it might be a good time for the first official post regarding Outer Space™! As I hope you’re aware, the newest addition to Mars’ robot collection landed safely last night (or this morning) and has already sent over three small pictures of its immediate vicinity. Watching this unfold live was quite cool in itself, but I also had up the simulation provided by NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System program (here – http://eyes.nasa.gov/index.html) which made it all the more awesome. Above is a picture captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE radar camera which shows the descent module depending from its supersonic parachute before the release of the heat shield. Below are the two images first sent across just moments after touchdown showing the view in front of and behind the rover.
In those pictures you can see the rover’s wheel (safely on the ground, notedly) and its shadow on the gravelly surface of Mars. A higher-resolution picture was later sent which shows the same view as the first, but bumped up to half of that camera’s detail level.
Keep in mind that these are just “novelty” shots from relatively minor cameras; the fancy array on the main boom (which will raise later this week) contains color cameras and video as well as a panorama mode. All of this is secondary, however, to the rover’s amazing collection of scientific collection and analysis gear, which has earned it the official name of the Mars Science Laboratory. I am very excited to see what this mission will find as it crawls up nearby Mt. Sharp, where many discoveries lay waiting to be made.
Switching gears, I also figured it high time I posted the picture I took of the transit of Venus across the Sun some time back. Since I am lacking in a designated solar telescope, I rigged up a viewer with a pair of binoculars projecting onto a viewing screen (a piece of paper in a picture frame) so that the Sun was magnified and in focus. It worked better than I had hoped, clearly showing Venus along with several sunspots.
The event was something we won’t see again for over 100 years, so I’m just glad I didn’t forget (the timing was dangerously close to sunset).
That’s all I have for you today; sometime soonish I’ll be posting the first of my shots from Durango, so stay in touch!