“Flattop” is a prominent feature visible in a number of Navcam images, and captured in detail in this excerpt from a panorama made from sol 107 Mastcam images.

To the left you can see a low peak I think of as “Fort Apache”. It is situated at the northeastern end of the front of Mt. Sharp, and I can imagine it as an outpost on the lookout for marauding Tharks.  It is marked in blue in my North Rim Redux post.

Anyway, the relative position of Flattop and Fort Apache changes noticeably as Curiosity shifts position by a few tens of meters so Flattop’s position can be triangulated against the more distant Fort Apache.

JPL published a map of Curiosity’s recent movements, shown here:

Flattop is not visible as it is just off the map to the east. However, this map is taken from an available Hirise view ( with contrast enhancement, ) and I show an excerpt from the original below with the position of Flattop indicated, as I discern it, and Curiosity’s position at sol 107 marked with a star. ( Click to enlarge ! )

The “Dead Fish”

This striking pair of rocks reminded me of “beached whales” on first glance, but I think they do look more like fish.  ( And doesn’t that look like a dinosaur bone to the right, there? ) They are prominent in a beautiful 37 Meg panorama formed from a 6×6 array of 36 mastcam images from Sol 109. Too big to upload. This 3 Meg “detail” is really what I was interested in, anyway. I included enough to show some foreground and “Ellis Island” in the background ( which defines the direction of the view. )

How big are they? they seem to be in the 6-10 foot range, to me. Dunno. They are visible in a few of the Navcam views, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for now.

Curiosity must have been interested to devote all this bandwidth to it. It’s kind of an “off” view, looking far to the right of  “Yellowknife Bay”, where Curiosity was headed at this point. These rocks are typical of a number of formations in the area, even including the cross sectional cleavage. I think the “scaly” texture is the layering so predominant at Gale, and the cleavage occurs when these sculpted outcroppings get undercut and can no longer support their own weight. Imagine sitting there watching one of these develop for thousands upon thousands upon thousands of years! ( That covers a million, right ? )

Update: Here are three views of the “dead fish” formation taken from Navcam panoramas for the labeled sol dates. The sol 100 images were taken at a shorter focal length, accounting for the smaller appearance. It was actually about the same distance from Curiosity as on sol 103. ( I can tell right away because PTgui makes crazy looking spiky squares for these short focal length images. )

The view directions are roughly SE, SSE, and NE, in that succession. On sol 120, Curiosity was at “shaler”, which is visible in the foreground ( and also on the right side of the sol 100 view.)  You can see that the dead fish are just to the NE of shaler. I’m frustrated and puzzled that Curiosity didn’t get more Mastcam shots of them, especially since it went right by them on the way over to Yellowknife Bay, visible in the sol 120 view behind the dead fish.

Using the sol 103 view, I was able to calibrate the angular scale of the photo and determine that the frontmost “fish” subtended about 0.068 radians. Using the JPL track map, I estimated the distance at 30 meters, giving 2.0 meters as its length.


North Rim Redux

( Click the posted images to see them full size. )

I had been looking for the proper scale of image to show the north rim of Gale Crater in the same view with the Curiosity landing site, yet detailed enough to identify features along the rim.

The magic word was “context”. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has a “context camera” whose images are at a much smaller scale than the Hirise images, which show local ground detail. I found this at a german-language site, www.raumfahrer.net ( that’s “space traveller” . )

The image is credited there to NASA/JPL, and is composed of a number of context images. I have excerpted it to show the north rim, and of course highlighted several features to match them to the previously posted panorama.

The red highlight is “Mount Fuji”, as I dubbed it, in the previous post.

Curiouser and Curiouser

… that is to say, it looks like Curiosity is getting “curiouser and curiouser” about this formation, named “Shaler” by JPL .  This symmetrically composed ( by Curiosity ) panorama is a closer in shot of the panorama I posted in “Navcam vs. Mastcam”, the composition being determined by the choice of view for the 33 raw images from sol 120 that I used with PTgui to get the panorama. It is 3 tiers of 11 images each.

The previous panorama from sol 113 was, by comparison, skewed so I’m not sure what goes into Curiosity’s view selection. This sol 120 panorama is also closer in, which is why it is curved. Actually, PTgui wanted to make it into almost a semicircle, but it let’s you bend it around with a cursor drag in a final edit, so I straightened it some.

Looking at the sol 113 panorama, you can see that Curiosity moved ahead and to the right in the 7 sols since, and the new view is looking back to the left from the closer in spot.

It’s a fascinating formation, but I don’t know what the brains behind Curiosity have in mind with this lengthy inspection, not that I’m complaining. It certainly provides enchantment to us fans.

The North Rim

The north rim of Gale Crater lines the northern horizon of Curiosity’s locale, but is not seen in most of the Mastcam and Navcam views, which tend to be towards Mt. Sharp in the south. Here is a comparison of panoramic views that do show it. The B&W panorama actually covers 360 degrees, and is composed of 12 images in the Right Navcam Sol 60 Raw image gallery. At this time Curiosity was at the Rocknest site.

On Sol 25 Curiosity was near the landing site, and took the twelve Mastcam images that form what I call the “botched panorama” because they do not actually overlap. This means that panorama software can do nothing with them, because it depends on matching overlapping areas. However, one can align them by eye to form continuous contours, and the result shows a consistent gap, seemingly caused by a misalignment of some kind, because the black edges are part of the original raw images.

Here, the assembled panorama has been reduced in scale and superimposed on the Navcam panorama. It is still at a somewhat larger scale as shown by the pink lines which match it to the Navcam horizon.

Note the change in the midground between the two locations. Curiosity had come over the rise seen to the left of the Navcam view ( note tracks at left, ) and it now starts to obscure the north rim. The sol 3 panorama does extend to this point, as shown by the reduced scale excerpt of its “tail”

Down by the Riverside

Here is a Hirise based view of the scene to the southeast of the Curiosity Bradbury landing site. ( South to the top. ) The colored ovals show landmarks discernible in the Sol 3 Mastcam panorama discussed in an earlier post.

The “river” here is the long depression at the base of Mt. Sharp running from SW to NE. I don’t believe it is a candidate for an ancient streambed, but it has the subjective appearance of a river valley on earth, especially because of the dark blue sand dunes which cover its bottom. This view to the SE is towards its closest approach to the landing site, and there is a conspicuous “Island” along the leftmost line of sight, marked there in an orange circle. I think of it as “Ellis Island”, in honor of Curiosity’s Martian Immigration … it sure ain’t coming back!

Below are two overlapping sections of the SOL 3 panorama, extending to the SE from the previously posted section. Of course the colors of the highlighted features there correspond to the Hirise view above.

Of note is the “invisible mountain” circled in orange-yellow, above the purple-circled “strait” . Can you see its outline in the panorama? Of course, it is readily visible in the Hirise view, and this threw me off for a while.

Finally, I include below some Hi-res Hirise views of selected features, as indicated by the colored borders. The High resolution view is very helpful in discerning vertical relief which might correspond to appearances in the panoramic view. All in all, a difficult and fretful business, to which I have now devoted a number of hours!

Navcam vs. Mastcam : Sol 113

Sol 113 mastcam viewOn Sol 113 Curiosity took the raw images from which these small panoramas are formed. They are from two different cameras, the Navcam and the Mastcam. The Navcam is a broad view, but of course still contains interesting detail. The Mastcam narrows in, and provides really fantastic “you are there” color imagery. Can you find the Mastcam view in the Navcam view ?

I was pleased that these uploads presented so well. I guess they are just the right size. When I click on the Mastcam view in IE9, I get the floating “+”, and when I click again I get full resolution, and “I am there”.

Racing across Mars

Here’s an image I made with paint.net of Curiosity’s route so far, superimposed on the north infield of the Indianapolis Speedway, of course to scale.

I used the radial gradient in transparent mode to blend it in. I’m a novice at paint.net, and I’ll tell you that it’s a real bear. I’m sure it works real nice once you get adept at it, but the help guides always leave me asking, “Yeah, but how do I DO IT  !?!?!”

Sol3 Panorama

This image shows a section of a panorama made from Sol 3 Mastcam images using PTgui, along with an annotated Hirise view and an explanation of the correspondence.

An image search of [ mt sharp distances ] will show a similar comparison at cosmicdiary.org made along the rightmost line of sight in two different posts ( made at different scales. )  JPL disseminated the “ground view” from Curiosty along this line, annotated with distances.

The cosmicdiary correspondence is at variance with mine, identifying the broad peak marked by the light green dot in the Hirise view as the peak corresponding to the one in the JPL view, marked here by a light blue dot.

Draw your own conclusions!