Opportunity Rover in Western Endeavour Crater
Opportunity Rover in Western Endeavour Crater
ESP_056955_1775  Science Theme: Future Exploration/Landing Sites
NASA still hasn’t heard from the Opportunity rover, but at least the agency can see it again.

A new image produced by HiRISE shows a small object on the slopes of Perseverance Valley. That object is Opportunity, which was descending into the Martian valley, when a dust storm swept over the region a little more than 100 days ago.

That storm was one of several that stirred up enough dust to enshroud most of the Red Planet in a planet-encircling dust event and blocked sunlight from reaching the surface. The global dust levels have steadily decreased in the past several weeks. The current tau—an exponential measure of how much sunlight reaches the surface—was estimated to be about 1.3 by MRO’s Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera, meaning that about 25 percent of the direct sunlight is now reaching the surface.

A lack of sunlight caused solar-powered Opportunity to go into hibernation. The rover’s team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, hasn’t heard from the rover since. However, given the current level of dust clearing, JPL last week began increasing the frequency of commands it beams to the 14-year-old rover. A key unknown is how much dust has fallen on the solar arrays. The HiRISE image shows some reddening of the surrounding area, suggesting dust fallout, but it is not possible to determine how much dust is on the arrays themselves. As the dusty sky continues to clear, the frequent commanding will continue and imaging will be repeated.

Here is an animated image that blinks between this new image and an image acquired about 1 Mars year ago, to show how the surface has changed. Aside from the rover (only in the new image), the color and albedo patterns are very similar, so an optically thick layer of dust has not been deposited over the region. (An optically thick layer of dust on the rover’s solar arrays would block all sunlight even through a perfectly clear atmosphere. The white box marks a 47-meter wide area centered on the rover.)

Written by: Andrew Good, JPL-Caltech  (25 September 2018)

Acquisition date
20 September 2018

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
268.2 km (166.7 miles)

Original image scale range
26.9 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~81 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
48°, with the Sun about 42° above the horizon

Solar longitude
253.6°, Northern Autumn

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  335.2°
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   (730MB)

IRB color
map-projected   (380MB)

Black and white
map-projected  (277MB)
non-map           (452MB)

IRB color
map projected  (104MB)
non-map           (361MB)

Merged IRB
map projected  (188MB)

Merged RGB
map-projected  (179MB)

RGB color
non map           (369MB)
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’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.