Astronomy Picture of the Day
April 14, 2014

Shining (CTX Frame)
Shining (CTX Frame)

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech - MER Curiosity - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF

This extremely suggestive image, obtained by the Navigation Camera (or "NavCam", for short) onboard the NASA - Mars Exploration Rover (MER) - Mars Laboratory Curiosity shows us, among many other interesting Surface Features, a Bright (actually, if you look carefully at the however Unusual Feature, it looks more like a "Flare-like") Spot, located near the upper left corner of the frame, right on top of a Rocky Ridge. The Sun, at the time when the picture was taken, was shining is in the same direction, such as West-North/West (above the imaged area but not visible here).


Bright Spots, according to NASA, appear in images from the Rover nearly every week and typical explanations for them are found either in Cosmic Rays hitting the Light Detector, or Sunlight glinting from (cristalline?) Rocks.


The Right-Eye Camera of the Stereo NavCam recorded this frame during the afternoon of the 589th Martian Day, or Sol, of the NASA - Mars Exploration Rover (MER) - Mars Laboratory Curiosity work on Mars (such as April 3, 2014, on Earth), from the Site where the Rover reached a waypoint called "The Kimberley". However, another image of the same location, but this other one taken by the NavCam's Left-Eye Camera within 1 (one) second of the same time (see http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/?rawid=NLB_449790582EDR_F0310000NCAM00262M_&s=589) does not show a Bright Spot of this type.


A pair of NavCam images looking at the same direction (but taken during the previous afternoon) show again a Bright Spot similarly located in the Right-Eye image (http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/?rawid=NRB_449700848EDR_F0301254NCAM00252M_&s=588), but not in the Left-Eye frame. (http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/?rawid=NLB_449700848EDR_F0301254NCAM00252M_&s=588).


As we mentioned hereabove, one possible explanation for the Bright Spot visible in this image, is a glint from a (cristalline?) Rock Surface reflecting the Sun. and another one (even though highly unlikely, in our opinion, as IPF) is a Cosmic Ray hitting the Camera's Light Detector: such as a CCD (---> Charge-Coupled Device). From past experience, we can say that the Cosmic Ray Patterns visible in Mars Rover images, may vary from a simple dot to a long line, depending on the angle at which the Ray strikes the Detector.


This picture (which is a crop taken from an Original NASA - Mars Exploration Rover (MER) - Mars Laboratory - "Curiosity" b/w image published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal and identified by the ID n. PIA 18077) has been additionally processed, magnified to aid the visibility of the details, Gamma corrected 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 (MER) - Mars Laboratory Curiosity, and then looked ahead, towards the Horizon and the Inner Walls of Gale Crater), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team.



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