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.

2009 March 24
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Martian Dunes and the Shadow of Opportunity
Credit: Mars Exploration Rover Mission, JPL, NASA

Explanation: Human made robots continue to roll across the surface of Mars. Both Opportunity and its sister rover Spirit are in their sixth year on Mars, exploring the red planet for years longer than original expectations. Pictured above is a composite of recent images taken by the navigation camera on top of the Opportunity rover in Meridiani Planum. Visible are parallel rover tracks, rippling sand dunes, light-colored bedrock protrusions, metallic rover parts, and the dark shadow of the sometimes-artistic robotic photographer. Currently, Opportunity is on its way toward huge Endeavor crater, while Spirit is trying to climb an unusual rock structure known as Home Plate. If it can survive the harsh martian environment, Opportunity should arrive at Endeavor crater in about two years, at which time it may revolutionize human knowledge of this ancient martian landform.

Tomorrow's picture: anti-pluto

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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