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.

2007 December 12
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Mars Rover Races to Survive
Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, USGS, UNM, HiRise

Explanation: The Martian rover Spirit is now in the race of its life. The rolling robot is trying to reach an outpost to spend the winter, but it keeps getting bogged down in soft sand on Mars. Earth scientists hope that Spirit can reach a slope on the northern edge of the unusual feature dubbed Home Plate, before the end of this month when northern winter will be phasing in on Mars. Reaching this slope will likely allow the rover to tilt enough toward the Sun to create a needed increase in the efficiency of its energy-absorbing solar panels. This map shows the path of Spirit from July 2004 until just last month.

Tomorrow's picture: pixels in space
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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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