Astronomy Picture of the Day
April 15, 2014

Shining (EDM)
Shining (EDM)

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

This Extra Detail Magnification (or "EDM", for short) of an image obtained by the Navigation Camera (or "NavCam") onboard the NASA - Mars Exploration Rover (MER) - Mars Laboratory Curiosity shows us, even though the magnification process used here caused a little distortion of the main visible Feature, a Bright (actually, if you look carefully at the however Unusual Feature, it looks more like a "Flare-like") Spot, located 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).


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).


Bright Spots, according to NASA, appear in images from the Rover nearly every week and a possible explanation for the the one visible in this image, is a glint (---> bright and small flash of light) from a (cristalline?) Rock Surface reflecting the Sun. Another explanation - always according to NASA - can also be found in a Cosmic Ray hitting the Camera's Light Detector: such as a CCD (---> Charge-Coupled Device).


Now, based on our own past (and LONG) experience in the Field of Planetary Science, we, as IPF, truly believe that both the aforementioned explanation given by NASA are extremely unlikely. First of all, the possibilities that a "single" Cosmic Ray hits (and not only more than once, but also in a very short lap of time!) the Camera's Light Detector onboard the NASA - Mars Exploration Rover (MER) - Mars Laboratory Curiosity, are astronomically low. NASA Scientists said and repeated in the past that the amount of Cosmic Rays that can actually reach the Surface of Mars is minimal, and this circumstance alone makes the first explanation that has been suggested by them really unlikely; in addition, and as far as the second explanation is concerned, we can all see very well that a simple "reflection" of the Sunlight on the (flat and, perhaps, cristalline) surface of a Rock cannot cause a light-effect like the one recorded in this frame (we repeat: what is visible here is more like a "Flare-like Light" than a "Flash" and, please, pay some very special attention to the visual configuration of the Light-Spot itself...).


Said that, can we draw some conclusion? Actually, no. It is impossible to say for sure what we are actually looking at, but the possibility that the Bright Light seen here is an Outgassing of some sort is, in our opinion, way more realistic and believable than the ones suggested by NASA. We truly apolgize to the NASA Planetary Scientists for our substantial disagreement with them about the true nature of this (however, unusually-looking) event and as far as their suggested explanations are concerned; but, as everybody knows, the Scientific Progress is (quite often, if not always) based on disagreements, rather than on a simple, uncritical - and therefore VERY easy - acceptance of (and compliance with) someone else's theory (especially when the theory comes from NASA...).


If you have any insight about this Feature and you wish to share it with us, please write to alphacentauri@intercom.it .


This picture (which is a sub-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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