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Space Science

First High-Res Color Photos from Mars 540

Posted by michael
from the martians-blend-in-with-the-terrain dept.
mzs writes "The first color thumbnail from Spirit was available yesterday from a larger image. Today some full-size color images are available. If you are in the USA you may be interested in catching the NOVA program on your local PBS station tonight." Acrobatman notes the existence of a nifty utility:"Mars24, a Mac OS X and Java application and applet which displays a Mars 'sunclock', a graphical representation of Mars. This free utility shows the current sun- and nightsides of Mars, along with a numerical readout of the time in 24-hour format and landmarks such as the landing positions of the rovers."
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First High-Res Color Photos from Mars

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  • Why is it that when scientists need a medium-large object to compare with the size of a rock, it is always "the size of a Volkswagen [nytimes.com]"? It's even worse than using football-fields to measure distance.
  • by andyrut (300890) * on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:12PM (#7895645) Homepage Journal
    Interesting how the Martian clock gives the Mars date like so: MSD 46218.763 This looks very similar to ye olde Star Trek stardates [aol.com].

    ...the "Mars Sol Date" (MSD) defined by AM2000. This represents a sequential count of Mars solar days elapsed since 1873 December 29 at approximately Greenwich noon
  • by ActionPlant (721843) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:12PM (#7895658) Homepage
    Very cool! I'm not sure I even care how they compare to previous pictures. There's something about knowing these are from virgin ground (so to speak). Alien landscape. I can't get enough. Right now, it just doesn't get much better.

    Damon,
    • by vhold (175219) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:37PM (#7898084)
      Yea, I got a weird errie feeling of awe from looking at that picture that I never got from looking at other pictures of mars before. I think it was because for a split second, I thought I saw a large beetle on the surface, and during my natural instinct to look closer and verify that, a thought short circuited in during that split second before I had the chance, "No, thats Mars, that's pretty much impossible, theres no life there." and suddenly the picture had an actual meaning to me, I sensed its environment of total lifelessness that extended far beyond that horizon.

      Then I scrolled over the picture, looking down at the rocks, and up at the horizon, and over, and felt how it was this huge expanse of real land, across the vacuum of space, virtually untouched, and actually sitting there with who knows what kind of potential. It was almost as if without any life, it seemed like the rocks in that picture had to make up for it, and they are sitting in that picture in total shock at the thing that just landed next to them. Eons of nothing happening and then that.
  • Where? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gorimek (61128) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:12PM (#7895661) Homepage
    I need alittle help. Who can tell me where in Utah this picture was faked by the liberal space establishment?

    If we work together we can beat the system!!
  • They're so biiiiig, and red!

    (sorry, first thing that came to mind.)

    On a slightly more serious note, I'm looking forward to sunset pics, and perhaps ones from a Martian duststorm, in addition to pics of the crash(?) site of Beagle2.
  • by setzman (541053) <stzmanNO@SPAMstz ... sandremoveit.org> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:14PM (#7895686) Journal
    If you look at the first photo, you will notice that a small area is blacked out. Is there something there that NASA doesn't want us to see?
    • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:19PM (#7895775) Homepage Journal
      It looks to me to be damaged tiles. Most likely, NASA is sending the images in chunks of compressed data. Given the distances involved (and the processing power for images this large), they are probably slicing the images into squares and using those as the chunks of data to compress. When the data is received on our end, NASA reconstructs the images and throws away bad data that didn't make it.

      It's possible that they'll have the lander retransmit the image at a later date. (Does anyone know the storage capacity of this thing?)

      • IIRC, 256MB of Flash. Then a smaller amount of another type of NVRAM.
      • they are probably slicing the images into squares and using those as the chunks of data to compress.

        Exactly, you can tell by looking carefully in the other pictures for those "mirror lines" or spots where a horizontal section of the image seems repeated or cut off.

        It's like if you were cutting out a two page photo from a magazine, but the photo were on two seperate page leaves. You would have to cut both segments out and try to connect them again, but would probably never get a perfectly aligned fit betw
      • by Boing (111813) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:36PM (#7896055)
        It's possible that they'll have the lander retransmit the image at a later date. (Does anyone know the storage capacity of this thing?)

        4 gigabytes, announced today. NASA could've spent $50 extra and gotten the 15 gigabyte one, but budget cuts et cetera et cetera. You know how it goes.

        Besides, this lander is about half the size of the 15 gig model, and weighs less, which is great for that heavy martian gravity.

        Oh, mars has less gravity? Oops.

        • 4 gigabytes, announced today. NASA could've spent $50 extra and gotten the 15 gigabyte one, but budget cuts et cetera et cetera. You know how it goes.

          The first bounce produces an estimated 40 g's, IIRC. Not exactly something the average Wester Digital can handle.
      • Parent was either a troll or a joke, no need to go into deep technical explanations ;-)
    • Those are probably places where some data was lost in transmission. When you have a half-hour ping time, it's not so easy to re-request lost packets. Those parts are still being stored on the lander's memory, if someone decides that they really want to see them.
    • ... I'm pretty sure that's just the inside of the camera enclosure. Kinda like someone's finger over the lens.
    • Looks to me like the photo's been patched together from several smaller photos, and a few of them are missing - there are three missing chunks in the lower left corner, of regular size.
    • by FerretFrottage (714136) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:29PM (#7895948)
      I believe under the black cersored block you will find either a KDE or gnome logo and NASA didn't want to deal with SCO lawsuits (despite SCO behaving as if they are from another planet)
    • by Jonathan Quince (737041) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:36PM (#7896062) Homepage
      Is there something there that NASA doesn't want us to see?

      Hot, green-skinned, six-breasted Martian stripper girls. They're just walking around the place, hitting on any robotic landers that they see in the hopes of starting a very long-distance relationship. Watch out, because before long, mail-order brides from Mars will be the next hot thing landing in your inbox.

      So of course they had to block parts out. We couldn't have government resources used to transmit pr0n, now could we?

    • On msnbc website they have a cool video of them panning out. The picture is taken from inside the craft (ie the black spot). Watch the video from NASA it's really cool!

      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3855168/

      It's also 12 million pixes (3000 x 4000). It is taken in squares.
  • Don't get me wrong. Views from another planet are breathtaking in of themselves. But it would be nice if we use this experience to improve our future landing technologies so we can land these probes in places more interesting than a wide open plain. Mountains against the sky (for example) would make for some amazing photographs.

    • ...so we can land these probes in places more interesting than a wide open plain.

      Well Beagle 2 tried this (seemingly of its own will!), did you enjoy the pictures?
    • by hpulley (587866) <hpulley4&yahoo,com> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:29PM (#7895945) Homepage

      The Mars Polar Lander most likely crashed [space.com] in 1998 so I think it was wise of them to be cautious and realistic about their chances this time. They sent two to improve their chances of getting one down. They went with stuff that worked in 1996 on Pathfinder, airbags, instead of lander legs which proved troublesome. More importantly, they included telemetry on the way down which is more expensive but which means you aren't left with such a guessing game if there is a failure. You at least have a clue how far it got, unlike the Beagle which hasn't been heard from since it left its mother craft; we have no idea whether its chute opened or if it was eaten by a space-probe eating monster. I applaud NASA for being more careful this time and for putting the equivalent of some printfs in there to make sure it wasn't going to slip away quietly this year.

      • No argument here. I just REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want to see some cool extra-terrestrial pictures. These images are just making me itch all that more. Actually, those photos wouldn't satisfy me either. What I REALLY want, is to go there. Unfortunately, we have a few nuclear activists to get off our backs before we can do it cheaply.

    • Well actually they did. Read up on the rovers, they are quite mobile when compared to the previous ones sent. I doubt they will stay at the landing zone much longer if they don't find anything of interest.

      • Since the JPL website is impossible to navigate for any technical info, could you tell me what the range of this thing is? As I understand it, the landing site is several hundred miles from anywhere interesting (to us home-scientists that is). Traveling the distances at less than a mile per hour (with constant check-ins so that it doesn't fall over a cliff or something) could take the better part of a month.

        • You've got the speed right, at least if I remember correctly. There comparison was that the latest probes could cover the distance in a day or two what took the previsous probes a month to cover. They are also supposed to last at least 90 days, again if I remember correctly, so that combined with the fact that there are two probes we should see a alot more variety out of the photos in the days to come.
        • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @06:25PM (#7896699) Homepage

          From the JPL website:
          • Rover Speed [nasa.gov]

            The rover has a top speed on flat hard ground of 5 centimeters (2 inches) per second. However, in order to ensure a safe drive, the rover is equipped with hazard avoidance software that causes the rover to stop and reassess its location every few seconds. So, over time, the vehicle achieves an average speed of 1 centimeter per second. The rover is programmed to drive for roughly 10 seconds, then stop to observe and understand the terrain it has driven into for 20 seconds, before moving safely onward for another 10 seconds.

          Just click on the Technology [nasa.gov] button.

    • Watch the Nova episode on the Rovers. Gustav Crater was the *risky* landing zone that the scientists really wanted but the engineers didn't know if they could do.

      It's basically a huge basin that has what looks to be an old river leading into it. If there was water, this is where to look, at least in a place where we could actually land. (The constraints are large: needs to be near the equator to get direct transmission to earth, low elevation to get maximum aerobraking, not too bumpy, etc)

    • so we can land these probes in places more interesting than a wide open plain.

      Give it time. Right now the goal is to find evidence of water. You won't be likely to find that in higher plains or hills.

      The error 500s making me back up a page, cut & paste, retry 20 times are driving me crazy!
  • by Skyshadow (508) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:15PM (#7895701) Homepage
    ...I wonder how long the commute is to the Bay Area from there? Maybe I could talk my boss into letting me telecommute a couple of days a month...
  • by greg_barton (5551) * <(greg_barton) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:15PM (#7895704) Homepage Journal
    Check out this pic [nasa.gov] There's a line of rocks that starts at the middle left edge of the picture and goes up and to the right. In addition, there's a line of rocks that intersects the first in the upper/center. Finally, there's a "wind trail" in the sand that intersects both rock lines, forming a triangle.

    In the center of the triangle are two triangular rocks.

    Isn't that interesting?
    • by stendec (582696) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:23PM (#7895835)
      And I see an old lady smoking a cigar... oh wait, wrong test.
    • On the centre right of that same picture is a trail of rocks arching towards the centre into the (relative) distance. This arch is a curve, and mars is a moderately shperical shape... plus the airbags were spherical. Clearly evidence of life on mars and that life on mars has influenced our earth technlogy.

      How interesting.
    • by Webmoth (75878) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:27PM (#7895917) Homepage
      First of all, there's a vertical line just left of center. This is where the image is stiched together. Although NASA may like us to believe this is one image, it's really a composite.

      Aside from that, I see nothing terribly unusual. Interesting, yes, but not unusual.

      The "line of rocks that starts at the middle left edge of the picture and goes up and to the right" is an illusion created by shadows and perspective. If I stare up at the light fixture on my ceiling, there appears to be a "pattern" of concentric rings and radial lines of texture. It's daylight, the curtains are open, and snow is on the ground so when the light is off, I have plane-source scattered light and any "pattern" disappears.

      Any appearance of order in the image is just an illusion.
      • The "line of rocks that starts at the middle left edge of the picture and goes up and to the right" is an illusion created by shadows and perspective.

        So, do you think that the "wind trails" behind the rocks are also a trick of shadows and perspective?
    • It's a ground covered with rocks in a pretty random assortment of sizes, shapes, positions and you found a triangle?!? You've been studying your geometry lately, haven't you.
      -N
  • by Odonian (730378) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:15PM (#7895715)
    One interesting mystery is the presence of dark patches that look like mud near the rover - they are clearly visible at the bottom the larger 8MB version of the photo on the nasa site. They are most likely formed by the airbags, but have an unusual dark appearance that really looks like wet ground.. nobody seems to know why they'd look that way from what I've read so far.
    • The news conference said that it was most likly a salt composite that makes it clump together like that. Moisture coming up from underground could have caused the salts to interact with the soil. The believe this because the viking lander found high concentrations of chlorine in the soil.
  • I don't care how red it is, giving a color image that contains only red tones isn't useful. I could do just as well by taking the black & white and using light red instead of white. They should adjust the frequencies so that the pictures give our eyes some useful information. That is, unless there really is just one frequency of light on Mars.
    • That would be why they have included the color calibration tool/sundial [cornell.edu] on the probes.
    • Re:red? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FroBugg (24957)
      Actually, the color in these pictures is really very interesting.

      What really stands out is that while all the soil and the sky are a dim, rusty red, the rocks in the pictures are grey-black.

      That gives us a good start on considering the differences between the ubiquitous dust and the actual rocks. We'll obviously get a lot more information when the rover begins sampling.
  • by StefanJ (88986) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:22PM (#7895814) Homepage Journal
    Why is the landscape around Mars landers always so uninspiring?

    It's due to an agreement between NASA and the Cultural Interdiction Wing of the Gyken-JAT Pan-Sapient Meld.

    The CIW allows a probe to land now and then . . . as long as it doesn't stray near sites that would make Hu-Mans really want to go to Mars.

    Such as the soaring mountains, yawning chasms, spectacular wind-carved rock outcroppings, and the planet's numerous brightly-lit interspecies brothels.

    Stefan
  • Wrong file dates? (Score:3, Informative)

    by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:23PM (#7895833) Homepage
    Go have a look at:

    http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpegMod/ [nasa.gov]

    Notice the dates on the files? Makes you wonder doesn't it? And why are they all modest? I want something bold and/or spicy!
    • Re:Wrong file dates? (Score:3, Informative)

      by AKAImBatman (238306)
      Dude, you're looking at the files from the last rover. Scroll to the bottom and you'll find the file dates are correct. BTW, they're "modest" because NASA keeps the images in "small", "modest", and "original 300 meg for scientific research" sizes.

  • Wow, such beautiful looking virgin terrain. The views are breathtaking, and the vast redness of the soil gives it a warm and cozy atmosphere.

    It just makes the real estate developer in me itch for action.
  • another link (Score:4, Informative)

    by mzs (595629) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:25PM (#7895884)
    There is a decent article [space.com] available at space.com with some more information from the press conference and the first color image as well.
  • Hmmm.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by EverDense (575518) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:27PM (#7895920) Homepage
    Half those images are bits of the robot itself.
    If they wanted hi-res images of the robot, why not take them BEFORE they sent it to Mars?

    Is Mars really THAT boring?
    • Re:Hmmm.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thedillybar (677116) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:39PM (#7896096)
      If NASA had hi-res images of the Columbia after it reached outer space, they may have been able to prevent the disaster upon re-entry.

      Maybe they're taking pictures of the robot to verify the functionality of its various components. And I would imagine they DID take hi-res images of it prior to launch, for comparison among other reasons.
    • The first thing they took pictures was of the probe, which makes perfect sense. If you just sent a probe all of that way wouldn't you want to make sure everything was in order and that the pictures backed up what the onboard equipment was sending back.

  • the most amazing part in these photos is the eeryness, the emptyness... it's beyond imagination that there is absolutely NOTHING out there on that red dust ball the size of the earth.

    If I stop to think about that fact, some cold shivers go over my spine, rubbing my nose in the fact that we're really really really really fucking lucky to even exist.
  • Where are all the chicks with three boobs?
  • Hi Res image mirror (Score:2, Informative)

    by Odonian (730378)
    Nasa has taken down the 8MB hires image off it's site due to bandwidth problems (/.ing aint helping im sure. I managed to get it earlier today and put a copy of it [earthlink.net] on my otherwise useless earthlink web area - Im sure that one will get hammered in short order too, so if anyone with a robust web server can get it and provide a better mirror, be my guest.
  • It looks like there's plenty of parking on Mars ...
  • I wonder if those tumbleweeds are anything like the ones we have in our deserts.
  • Has anyone ever tried to fill in what Mars would look like with oceans filling in the deeper canyons to a depth similar to Earth? I think that would make an interesting picture.
  • How long do you figure before someone starts telling us it's all being faked ala the moon walk hoax conspiracists?
  • by dekashizl (663505) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:48PM (#7896228) Journal
    For news, status, updates, scientific info, images, video, and more, check out:
    Mars Exploration Rover Highlights (AXCH) [axonchisel.net].

    This has links to tons of great information, images, QuickTimeVR, 3d images, videos, history, and lots more about Mars and this MER Spirit mission in particular. I have been obsessively checking this page and branching out from there every couple of hours for the last few days.
  • I was reading about the cameras on the Spirit rover over at cornell.edu. It says that the main camera is using a 1 megapixel CCD. It also says that the camera is unable to distinguish colors, so they have a manual color filter wheel mounted on the front of the camera lenses.

    Can anyone explain why something launched 8 months ago is using 1 megapixel technology that can't see color? I understand the data takes a while to get here but it seems they could lower the default picture resolution, then send a
    • Re:Low res? (Score:5, Informative)

      by gorilla (36491) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @06:10PM (#7896504)
      Scientific work is almost always in monochrome. If you have a colour CCD then you automatically have 1/3 the resolution, and you can only pickup those colours. Here they have the potential to use many different colour filters, including ones which include wavelengths our eyes aren't sensitive to.

      As for space certified. I'm not aware of PCSAT having any CCDs on it. However, I'm also not sure that it was built using space certified components. It was meant as a student exercise, to give the students experience at building a satellite. If it lasted a week then failed, then that wouldn't be the end of the world. The mars landers have to last at least several months to get ANY results, and therefore have to be built to be more bulletproof.

    • Re:Low res? (Score:5, Funny)

      by taustin (171655) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @06:14PM (#7896557) Homepage Journal
      Take your digital camera out and slam it against a wall hard enough to generate 40gs of deceleration, and see how many megapixiels it has left.
      • Re:Low res? (Score:3, Informative)

        by jCaT (1320)
        Probably quite a few... what many people fail to realize is how massive the numbers are for a relatively simple impact. Check out this article about dropping laptops. They dropped laptops in various bags from a height of 40 inches onto concrete to see what kind of shock loading the laptop experienced. The worst out of the bunch clocked in at a little over 200 G's!

        http://www.codidirect.com/reviews/mobileComputi n g_ 02-01.asp

        55 G's really isn't that bad, when you think about it... and as long as you're mi
    • work in monochrome. Actually all CCD's do. Your consumer camera has built in color filters attached physically to the CCD with a separate color per charge well. While this makes processing for you and the camera simple, it lowers the resolution and sensitivity than if you were using a single filter across the whole CCD and then later combine it into a mosaic.

      The filter wheel also includes infrared and ultraviolet filters so that the camera can explore in those wavelengths as well. So it can still see m
    • Re:Low res? (Score:3, Informative)

      by ferreth (182847)
      I was reading on JPL's site last night (don't have link handy, sorry) that the vertical resolution was 4000 pixels. They didn't give a horzontal resolution. Given the picture is 3851 pixels high (cropped?), they might be right in some form.

      Looking at the picture, I'm guessing a splice of four pictures, with a middle overlap - you can see two vertical splice zones, and two horizontal splice zones - the bottom horizontal splice zone is the hardest to see - look at the large rock just to the right of center o
  • by Leebert (1694) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @05:59PM (#7896362)
    On the chance that this gets slashdotted (it's been slow for a while), I'll mirror the high-res panoramic image here: http://nccs.nasa.gov/~lsherida/PIA04995.jpg [nasa.gov]
  • High-Res Pictures (Score:4, Informative)

    by SmilingBoy (686281) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @06:07PM (#7896473)
    For a good slashdotting of NASA's servers:

    Here is a link to a high-res mosaic, 3498x3851, TIFF format, 40.4MB:

    http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/tiff/PIA04995.tif [nasa.gov]

    And the same picture as a 1.1 MB JPG (still full resolution):

    http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA04995.jpg [nasa.gov]

  • by xilvar (738620) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:31PM (#7898031)
    For fun I carefully massaged the photo to suppress the massive red cast, so we can see all the colors and detail more clearly : here! [stabilize.net]
    And the original for comparison (just resized) : here! [stabilize.net]
  • by Veramocor (262800) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:47PM (#7898182)
    The rover and its pictures are all fine and good, but for over 400 million a pop, the question remains......

    How will the rover improve nerds neverending quest for more porn??

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