Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Coolest Picture Ever

I'm not intending my blog to become "all Mars all the time," but c'mon, I can't let this pass:
. My friend Sherwood the Astronomer left a comment in yesterday's post informing me that the reign of yesterday's Coolest Picture Ever has ended, and so it has. We have a cooler Coolest Picture Ever.

This is a shot from HiRISE, the same Mars satellite that took the parachute photo as well as the great photo of the Earth and Moon I loved back in March. It's looking straight down on the Phoenix lander from space. And not just the lander: this image also shows where Phoenix's heat shield, parachute, and backshell (a protective cover ejected before touchdown) all landed.

The quality and resolution of this image is astounding. Phoenix isn't very large, about five feet tall and wide, but you can even make out its two solar panels unfurled to the sides (spanning about 18 feet tip to tip). A person could walk across this picture in a couple of minutes. The beautiful part is that HiRISE is charting the entire planet at this level of detail. I'll bet there are spots on Earth we haven't seen this well.

What a triumph! And how amazing that we take such triumphs for granted. Science has spoiled us.

EDITED TO ADD: Just found this photo, which puts the former Coolest Picture Ever into even cooler perspective. It turned out that the photo released yesterday was a heavily processed blow-up of a much larger HiRISE image. Here's the original:

Hard to see at Blogger resolution, but the inset at lower left shows what that little white speck looks like magnified. This is Phoenix and its parachute drifting in front of the large Heimdall Crater (same photo as yesterday--they only had one shot at this). The probe was still several kilometers high at this point and landed nowhere near the crater. But that's some impressive context!


1 comment:

Namowal said...

Yep, that's cool too.
In addition to sending astronauts into space, they're sending space to us non astronauts with these high res photos.
Thanks for including it.