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Full-Circle 'Bonestell' Panorama from Spirit
12.30.08
 
panorama of Mars
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This 360-degree panorama shows the vista from the location where NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has spent its third Martian southern-hemisphere winter inside Mars' Gusev Crater. The rover's overwintering location is on the northern edge of a low plateau informally called "Home Plate," which is about 80 meters or 260 feet in diameter.

This view combines 246 different exposures taken with Spirit's panoramic camera (Pancam) -- 82 pointings, with three filters at each pointing. Spirit took the first of these frames during the mission's 1,477th Martian day, or sol, (February 28, 2008) two weeks after the rover made its last move to reach the location where it would stop driving for the winter. Solar energy at Gusev Crater is so limited during the Martian winter that Spirit does not generate enough electricity to drive, nor even enough to take many images per day. The last frame for this mosaic was taken on Sol 1691 (October 5, 2008). Spirit began moving again on Sol 1709 (October 23, 2008), inching uphill to adjust the angle of its solar panels for the last portion of the winter.

The hill on the horizon at far right is Husband Hill, to the north. Spirit acquired a 360-degree panorama from the summit of Husband Hill during August 2005. The hill dominating the left portion of the image is McCool Hill. Husband and McCool hills are two of the seven principal hills in the Columbia Hills range within Gusev Crater. Home Plate is in the inner basin of the range.

The northwestern edge of Home Plate is visible in the right foreground. The blockier, more sharply shadowed texture there is layered sandstone whose layering is tilted inward toward the edge of the Home Plate platform. The northeastern edge of Home Plate is visible in the left foreground. Spirit first climbed onto Home Plate on that region, in early 2006.

Rover tracks from driving by Spirit are visible on Home Plate in the center and right of the image. These were made during Spirit's second exploration on top of the plateau, which began when Spirit climbed onto the southern edge of Home Plate in September 2007.

In the center foreground, the turret of tools at the end of Spirit's robotic arm appears in duplicate because the arm was repositioned between the days when the images making up that part of the mosaic were taken. On the horizon above the turret, to the south, is a small hill capped with a light-toned outcrop. This hill is called "Von Braun," and it is a possible destination for Spirit during the upcoming Martian southern-hemisphere summer. The flat horizon in the right-hand portion of the panorama is the basaltic plain onto which Spirit landed on January 4, 2004 (Universal Time; January 3, 2004, Pacific Standard Time).

This is an approximate true-color, red-green-blue composite panorama generated from images taken through the Pancam's 600-nanometer, 530-nanometer and 480-nanometer filters. This "natural color" view is the rover team's best estimate of what the scene would look like if we were there and able to see it with our own eyes.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell University