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NASA's Opportunity rover captures incredible views of impact crater on Mars

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Thursday, May 22, 2014, 10:32 AM - NASA's veteran explorer, Opportunity, has been roving the planet Mars for over 10 years now, and it is still amazing us with the incredible images it is sending back to the science team here on Earth, like the one below.

(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

This image is of the western rim of the Endeavour Crater, taken by Opportunity from its perch on 'Murray Ridge' near where it was sunning itself during the Martian winter. This is only a small portion of the full vista that the rover captured, though. Click the image to see the full version, which shows off quite a bit more of the crater. From this location, along the northwestern rim of the crater, the rover was looking towards the south-southeast, so the full view shows the east-southeast edge of the crater rim, along with the central plateau, on the far left. The southern rim extends through the centre of the image, and the western rim is to the far right. Also, since the full image is likely reduced to fit your screen, you should be able to click on it to zoom in, and see much more detail. 

To get a sense of scale here, the southern rim of the crater is roughly 21 kilometres away from where Opportunity is, and that smaller impact crater along the rim (near the left edge of the image) is around 225 metres wide. Travelling at its average speed of around 0.9 centimetres per second, Opportunity would need a full month to cross to that small crater, if it travelled non-stop, 24 hours and 37 minutes a Sol (a Martian day). 

The view in this picture is basically what you'd see if you were standing on the surface of Mars at that location, looking with your own eyes. However, while the view is incredible, the science team likes to have a much more detailed look at what the rover is seeing. For that, they have developed very specific ways of adjusting the colours of the image to bring out the most detail. The 'false colour' version of this image, which shows off all the ridges, rocks and layers, can be seen by clicking here.

Although it has been exploring Mars for over 10 years now, Opportunity is doing remarkably well. In fact, it was even granted an incredible boon by the Martian weather recently, as wind blew most of the dust off the rover's solar panels, giving it a major boost in power. Emily Lakdawalla, self-proclaimed Planetary Evangelist and Senior Editor for the Planetary Society, recently wrote about the dust accumulations on the two rovers currently roaming about on Mars. Her blog post has great comparison shots for both Curiosity and Opportunity, showing just how much dust the former has been gathering and how much was blown off the latter. Check it out!

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