An older rover releases a picture

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Scientists have released a spectacular panorama taken by the now dead rover, Spirit, from its perch at its 2006 winter haven. I have posted a cropped section of that panorama below the fold, with some analysis.

Panorama from Opportunity

You can see the track of Spirit’s earlier travels going down the hill and then heading to the left.

To me, the interesting thing about this image is how it can fool you. Because we are used to seeing trees or bushes on hillsides here on Earth, the dark splotches on the hillside on the right at first glance appear to be trees or bushes. Obviously, that is not what they are. They are rocks, some of which were closely inspected by Spirit as it went by. As the press release notes,

This beautiful scene reveals a tremendous amount of detail in Spirit’s surroundings. Many dark, porous-textured volcanic rocks can be seen around the rover, including many on Low Ridge. Two rocks to the right of center, brighter and smoother-looking in this image and more reflective in infrared observations by Spirit’s miniature thermal emission spectrometer, are thought to be meteorites. On the right, “Husband Hill” on the horizon, the rippled “El Dorado” sand dune field near the base of that hill, and lighter-toned “Home Plate” below the dunes provide context for Spirit’s travels from mid-2005 to early 2006.


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