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.

December 4, 1999
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Mars Polar Lander Target Ellipse
Picture Credit: Malin Space Science Systems, MGS, JPL, NASA

Explanation: South is up in this recent composite color picture of Mars Polar Lander's target region near the Martian South Pole taken on November 28. Imaged by the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor's wide angle camera, the area covered is 105 kilometers across with the expected landing ellipse superposed. It is late spring in Mars' southern hemisphere and white patches near the top are what remains of the area's winter frost while dark areas are likely sand and fields of sand dunes. The Mars Polar Lander spacecraft reached the Red Planet yesterday at 20:00 UTC and earthbound controllers are still trying to establish contact with the lander during the available communication windows. From orbit, the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft will try to contact the two basketball-sized microprobes jettisoned during the lander's descent.

Tomorrow's picture: Saturnian Moon

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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