Perseverance Landing Site from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Explanation: Seen from orbit a day after a dramatic arrival on the martian surface, the Perseverance landing site is identified in this high-resolution view from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The orbiter’s camera image also reveals the location of the Mars 2020 mission descent stage, heat shield, and parachute and back shell that delivered Perseverance to the surface of Mars. Each annotated inset box spans 200 meters (650 feet) across the floor of Jezero Crater. Perseverance is located at the center of the pattern created by rocket exhaust as the descent stage hovered and lowered the rover to the surface. Following the sky crane maneuver, the descent stage itself flew away to crash at a safe distance from the rover, its final resting place indicated by a dark V-shaped debris pattern. Falling to the surface nearby after their separation in the landing sequence, heat shield, parachute and back shell locations are marked in the high-resolution image from Mars orbit.
Explanation: Stitched together on planet Earth, 142 separate images make up this 360 degree panorama from the floor of Jezero Crater on Mars. The high-resolution color images were taken by the Perseverance rover’s zoomable Mastcam-Z during mission sol 3, also known as February 21, 2021. In the foreground of Mastcam-Z’s view is the car-sized rover’s deck. Broad light-colored patches in the martian soil just beyond it were scoured by descent stage rocket engines during the rover’s dramatic arrival on February 18. The rim of 45 kilometer-wide Jezero Crater rises in the distance. In the coming sols, Perseverance will explore the ancient lake-delta system in the crater, hunting for signs of past microscopic life and collecting samples for potential future return to planet Earth.
Explanation: On a mission to explore the inner heliosphere and solar corona, on July 11, 2020 the Wide-field Imager on board NASA’s Parker Solar Probe captured this stunning view of the nightside of Venus at distance of about 12,400 kilometers (7,693 miles). The spacecraft was making the third of seven gravity-assist flybys of the inner planet. The gravity-asssist flybys are designed to use the approach to Venus to help the probe alter its orbit to ultimately come within 6 million kilometers (4 million miles) of the solar surface in late 2025. A surprising image, the side-looking camera seems to peer through the clouds to show a dark feature near the center known as Aphrodite Terra, the largest highland region on the Venusian surface. The bright rim at the edge of the planet is nightglow likely emitted by excited oxygen atoms recombining into molecules in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Bright streaks and blemishes throughout the image are likely due to energetic charged particles, and dust near the camera reflecting sunlight. Skygazers from planet Earth probably recognize the familiar stars of Orion’s belt and sword at lower right.
Explanation: In the heart of the Rosette Nebula lies a bright open cluster of stars that lights up the nebula. The stars of NGC 2244 formed from the surrounding gas only a few million years ago. The featured image taken in January using multiple exposures and very specific colors of Sulfur (shaded red), Hydrogen (green), and Oxygen (blue), captures the central region in tremendous detail. A hot wind of particles streams away from the cluster stars and contributes to an already complex menagerie of gas and dust filaments while slowly evacuating the cluster center. The Rosette Nebula‘s center measures about 50 light-years across, lies about 5,200 light-years away, and is visible with binoculars towards the constellation of the Unicorn (Monoceros).
Explanation: Slung beneath its rocket powered descent stage Perseverance hangs only a few meters above the martian surface, captured here moments before its February 18 touchdown on the Red Planet. The breath-taking view followed an intense seven minute trip from the top of the martian atmosphere. Part of a high resolution video, the picture was taken from the descent stage itself during the final skycrane landing maneuver. Three taut mechanical cables about 7 meters long are visible lowering Perseverance, along with an electrical umbilical connection feeding signals (like this image), to a computer on board the car-sized rover. Below Perseverance streamers of martian dust are kicked-up from the surface by the descent rocket engines. Immediately after touchdown, the cables were released allowing the descent stage to fly to a safe distance before exhausting its fuel as planned.
Explanation: After a 203 day interplanetary voyage, and seven minutes of terror, Perseverance has landed on Mars. Confirmation of the successful landing at Jezero crater was announced from mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California at 12:55 pm PST on February 18. The car-sized Mars rover’s Front Left Hazard Avoidance Camera acquired this initial low resolution image shortly after touchdown on mission Sol 0. A protective cover is still on the camera, but the shadow of Perseverance, now the most ambitious rover sent to the Red Planet, is visible cast across the martian surface.
Explanation: Taken on February 6, this snowy mountain and skyscape was captured near Melchsee-Frutt, central Switzerland, planet Earth. The reddish daylight and blue tinted glow around the afternoon Sun are colors of the Martian sky, though. Of course both worlds have the same Sun. From Mars, the Sun looks only about half as bright and 2/3 the size compared to its appearance from Earth. Lofted from the surface of Mars, fine dust particles suspended in the thin Martian atmosphere are rich in the iron oxides that make the Red Planet red. They tend to absorb blue sunlight giving a red tinge to the Martian sky, while forward scattering still makes the light appear relatively bluish near the smaller, fainter Martian Sun. Normally Earth’s denser atmosphere strongly scatters blue light, making the terrestrial sky blue. But on February 6 a huge cloud of dust blown across the Mediterranean from the Sahara desert reached the Swiss Alps, dimming the Sun and lending that Alpine afternoon the colors of the Martian sky. By the next day, only the snow was left covered with reddish dust.