Astronomy Picture of the Day
April 21, 2013

Mount Sharp
Mount Sharp

Credits: NASA/JPL/Arizona State University (ASU) - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/Lunar Explorer Italia/IPF

During the month of April, of the AD 2013, Mars will be in a so-called "Conjunction" relative to the Planet Earth. This means that the Sun is exactly in the line-of-(direct) sight between the two aforementioned Celestial Bodies, such as our Home Planet Earth and the Red Planet. In this Spatial Configuration, as you can easily understand, the communications between the two Planets are - in fact - almost impossible; however, during the Conjunction Period, the Rovers operating on the Surface of Mars and the Spacecrafts orbiting around it, will continue to operate, but without sending all the collected data to Earth. This data, which are all recorded and stored, will be sent to Earth when the Conjunction is over, Mars shall have moved away from behind the Sun (of course, only from our Terrestrial point of view) and therefore the line-of-(direct) sight between Earth and Mars is re-established.

During the Conjunction Period, the "NASA - THEMIS Image of the Day" will be a visual tour of Gale Crater, such as the location of the newest Mars Exploration Rover (and Laboratory) Curiosity. The image of Gale Crater that we propose you on today's APOD (image that was taken about three and an half years ago, by the NASA - Mars Odyssey Orbiter, during its 34.540th orbit around the Red Planet) shows us (once again) the Final Destination of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) and Mars Laboratory "Curiosity", such as Mount Sharp, just East of the highest Peak of the Deposit. The Dark Material near the top of the image is likely Sand and this frame shows its presence both on the Floor of Gale Crater as well as on some part of Mount Sharp itself. Just out of curiosity, you may want to notice that the subtle orange-gray color of almost all the Surface Features visible here, as well as the definition of the smaller Surface Details, tell us that, at the time (where and when) this picture was taken, the Atmospheric Opacity (or "TAU") at Mount Sharp and its surroundings (and, most likely, all over Gale Crater) was quite high.

Latitude (centered): 4,85635° South
Longitude (centered): 138,09900° East
Instrument: VIS
Captured: September, 27th, 2009

This frame (which is an Original Mars Odyssey Orbiter b/w frame published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 16964) has been additionally processed and then colorized in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Mars Odyssey Orbiter and then looked down, towards the Surface of Mars), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team.

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