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Spotlight On Mars - Image
As Good As It Gets
October 09, 2008
This false-color image shows the view looking down from orbit at the area where Spirit has spent the past Martian winter. Spirit is visible as a black dot on the northeast face of the plateau. To the west (left) are a low peak, a round plateau, and a series of east-west trending ripples. To the south is a low ridge, an elongated plateau, a small crater, and a small peak. To the east (right) is another low ridge and beyond it, a rugged, rocky surface.

Clear skies and low-angle sunlight are an outdoor photographer's dream. On the shortest day of Martian winter, June 24, 2008, Spirit had both. Conditions were ideal for an orbiter's shot of the Mars rover parked on the sunlit slope of a volcanic plateau. Shadows outlined shapes in the landscape, such as the upturned edges of the bowl-shaped plateau known as "Home Plate." Shadows also reveal nearby ridges, slopes, and large boulders. Spirit is the dark "bump," marked by a yellow arrow.

Detailed images such as this one will help scientists select a future path for Spirit. For plotting a path on Mars, a powerful orbiting camera, long shadows, and a clear sky are about as good as it gets.

High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

False-color image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
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