Curiosity Offside!
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Curiosity Offside!
ESP_037117_1755  Science Theme: Aeolian Processes
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Being called offside is a good thing in this case, but don’t tell the FIFA referees.

HiRISE captured this image on 27 June 2014, when Curiosity had just crossed the edge of the 3-sigma landing ellipse (see this image; blue line is the edge of the ellipse). OK, I don’t hear any cheering must be wondering “what the heck is a 3-sigma landing ellipse?”

That’s a statistical prediction of where on Mars the rover might end up landing, given uncertainties such as atmospheric conditions during entry and descent. “3-sigma” means 3 standard deviations, so the rover was very, very likely (to about the 99.9% level) to land somewhere inside this ellipse.

Such 3-sigma ellipses get a lot of scrutiny during landing site selection, because we don’t want anything dangerous like boulders or cliffs inside this ellipse during landing. Thus MSL didn’t try to land right at the base of Mount Sharp where the most interesting terrains lay (as seen from orbit), and spent almost exactly one Mars year roving (and exploring) until arriving at the edge of the ellipse.

Maybe the landing-site aficionados are cheering now? Let’s try this: now that MSL is outside the safe-to-land ellipse, the landscape will get more interesting. The rover can drive around landscape features that would be dangerous to land on. Both the scenery and the geology should be more exciting in the next Mars year. In fact, scrolling to the south in the HiRISE image provides a preview: lots of cliffs and rippled patches of sand.

Here is a colorized version of the crossing of the ellipse.

Written by: Alfred McEwen  (8 July 2014)
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Acquisition date
27 June 2014

Local Mars time:

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Range to target site
277.1 km (173.2 miles)

Original image scale range
27.7 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~83 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle:

Phase angle:

Solar incidence angle
58°, with the Sun about 32° above the horizon

Solar longitude
152.5°, Northern Summer

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  23.1°
Black and white
map projected  non-map

IRB color
map projected  non-map

Merged IRB
map projected

Merged RGB
map projected

RGB color
non-map projected

Black and white
map-projected   (811MB)

IRB color
map-projected   (491MB)

Black and white
map-projected  (381MB)
non-map           (423MB)

IRB color
map projected  (149MB)
non-map           (389MB)

Merged IRB
map projected  (204MB)

Merged RGB
map-projected  (195MB)

RGB color
non map           (376MB)
B&W label
Color label
Merged IRB label
Merged RGB label
EDR products

IRB: infrared-red-blue
RGB: red-green-blue
About color products (PDF)

Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
For scale, use JPEG/JP2 black & white map-projected images

All of the images produced by HiRISE and accessible on this site are within the public domain: there are no restrictions on their usage by anyone in the public, including news or science organizations. We do ask for a credit line where possible:
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.