Sunday, January 04, 2004

A perfect landing on Mars


NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit just returned this beautiful panorama of the surface of Gusev crater on Mars after a perfect landing. I've been watching live NASA TV via streaming RealVideo tonight, which presented commentary, the exhilerating moments around the touchdown, press briefings and very first post-landing images. These initial images are just black and white quick look views to assess the state of the lander and the local environs. Throughout the rest of today, higher quality images, including color and stereo, will stream down from the lander's various communication links. Later this week, once the scientists and engineers finish studying the landing site, they'll command the rover to "stand up" and roll off the landing platform to begin exploring. We're assured of some astounding scenery in the coming weeks. has excellent coverage and live updates blogged from mission control. As if all this wasn't exciting enough, we have the landing of the second rover, named Opportunity, on January 24th.

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Saturday, August 23, 2003

Mars looms large and bright


Amy, dog and I cruised westward on Ohio Route 502 tonight to find a suitable spot to view and photograph Mars, which is closer to Earth than it's been in nearly 60,000 years. At magnitude -2.9, the planet is second only to Venus in brightness.

Just a few hundred feet into Indiana, we made a right turn into a tomato patch so I could set up for a time exposure. The best image out of many attempts is offered here. In this fisheye lens view, I composed the rising Mars over our PT Cruiser, and used an LED flashlight to lightpaint the foreground during a 30 second exposure.

The Milky Way stretched across the entire sky, but while very clear to our naked eyes, was too faint for the Coolpix camera to capture. I only get to see the deep sky a few times a year, so it was a treat to stare at the star-encrusted sky while I waited for my long exposures.

And how fitting that we observed Mars in a tomato patch. 2003 is the 25th anniversary of the release of the cult film classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

Update: I composited my memory of the appearance of the Milky Way into the photo above.

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