Astronomy Picture of the Day
October 9, 2012

Late Morning at Gale Crater - Sol 60
Late Morning at Gale Crater - Sol 60

Credits: NASA/JPL/MSSS - Mars Exploration Rover/Mars Laboratory Curiosity Mission - Credits for the additional process.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/Lunar Explorer Italia/IPF

Today's APOD is a Navigation Camera (NavCam) frame taken at 11:34:47 Mars Local Solar Time, of the 60th Sol (or Martian Day) of the NASA - Mars Exploration Rover (MER)/Mars Laboratory Curiosity Mission to Gale Crater. It shows, in a relatively clear way (as a matter of fact, the average quality of the pictures arriving from the MER Curiosity, so far and in our opinion - as IPF -, is far from being optimal), the uneven Rocky Terrain that is in the immediate surroundings of the Rover and then, in the distance (and almost invisible to the naked eye, because of the presence of a very thick Fog) the Inner Rim of Gale Crater.

As you can see, after 60 Soles of stay at Gale, the average Atmospheric Opacity (or TAU) at this location keeps being extremely high and, even in the color frames coming from Curiosity's MastCam, the clear impression that we have, is that this thick "Fog" that characterizes the inside of Gale Crater is way more invasive (meaning that its presence can be perceived even when looking at objects that are very close to the Observer) and persistent (meaning that it is continuously present throughout the entire Martian Day, and not only at specific hours) than the ones that were - sometime just merely - perceivable at other Martian Landing Sites, from (for instance) Chrise Planitia and Ares Vallis, to Meridiani Planum and Gusev Crater.

It is very likely, still in our opinion, as the Italian Planetary Foundation, that the intensity and persistency of the Fog at Gale Crater is due to the simultaneous combination of several factors, such as: the specific physical configuration and depth of the Floor of the Crater (as compared to its surroundings); the height and physical configuration of its Rim and, last but not least, the specific - and, we believe, EXTREMELY low - Air Circulation Cycle that exists inside it. Said in other words: the Atmosphere existing on the Floor (such as at the very bottom) of Gale Crater is both (relatively) thick and really still and, therefore, basically fit to allow the suspended particles of Dust, Ash and - possibly - Water Vapour forming the Fog, to permanently remain (relatively) stable, and without any (not even just temporary) dispersion or modification due to the Winds' Action (Winds that, inside Gale, might be almost absent or, maybe, simply very weak).

This frame (which is an Original NASA - Mars Exploration Rover/Mars Laboratory Curiosity Original b/w Frame identified by the ID n. NRA_402816014EDR_F0050104NCAM00451M) has been additionally processed and then colorized in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a normal - meaning "in the average" - human eye would actually perceive if someone were on the Surface of Mars, near the NASA - Mars Exploration Rover/Mars Laboratory Curiosity, and then looked towards the Horizon of Gale Crater), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team.

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