Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2005 February 9
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Heat Shield Impact Crater on Mars
Credit: Mars Exploration Rover Mission, JPL, NASA

Explanation: Broken metal and scorched Mars make the impact site of Opportunity's heat shield one of the more interesting sites inspected by the rolling robot. Visible on the image left is the conical outer hull of the shattered heat shield expelled by Opportunity as it plummeted toward Mars last year. Scrolling right will show not only another section of the heat shield but the impact site itself. The site is of interest partly because its creation was relatively well understood. The impact splattered subsurface light red dirt, while a darker material appears to track toward the large debris. Behind the impromptu space exhibit lies a vast alien landscape of featureless plains and rust-tinted sky.

Tomorrow's picture: red Saturn

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