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Stunning panorama of Mars reveals the final resting place of NASA's Opportunity rover – Daily Mail

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Life on Mars! Stunning panorama of the Red Planet reveals the final resting place of NASA’s Rover Opportunity before it was declared ‘dead’ earlier this year

  • NASA shared a stunning panorama of Mars, which is also the resting place of its Opportunity rover
  • The image combines a series of 354 individual pictures that were snapped over a 29-day period
  • The view is of  the Perseverance Valley, which the rover was set to explore before it was declared dead in Feb.

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A stunning panorama of Mars shows the final resting place of NASA’s Opportunity.

The image is a series of 354 individual pictures snapped by the rover over a 29-day period before it shutdown completely and declared ‘dead’ by the American space agency earlier this year.

The desolate Martian landscape known as Perseverance Valley was the last thing the rover saw and now serves as its graveyard. 

The panorama is composed of 354 individual images provided by the rover’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111.

The panorama combines images from three different Pancam filters, which admit light centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet).

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A stunning panorama of Mars shows the final resting place of NASA ¿s Opportunity. The image is a series of 354 individual pictures snapped by the rover over a 29-day period before it shutdown completely and declared 'dead' by the American space agency earlier this year

A stunning panorama of Mars shows the final resting place of NASA ’s Opportunity. The image is a series of 354 individual pictures snapped by the rover over a 29-day period before it shutdown completely and declared ‘dead’ by the American space agency earlier this year

Opportunity project manager John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said: ‘This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery.’

‘To the right of center you can see the rim of Endeavor Crater rising in the distance.’

‘Just to the left of that, rover tracks begin their descent from over the horizon and weave their way down to geologic features that our scientists wanted to examine up close.’

‘And to the far right and left are the bottom of Perseverance Valley and the floor of Endeavour crater, pristine and unexplored, waiting for visits from future explorers.’

The desolate Martian landscape known as Perseverance Valley was the last thing the rover saw and now serves as its graveyard. The panorama is composed of 354 individual images provided by the rover's Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111

The desolate Martian landscape known as Perseverance Valley was the last thing the rover saw and now serves as its graveyard. The panorama is composed of 354 individual images provided by the rover's Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111

The desolate Martian landscape known as Perseverance Valley was the last thing the rover saw and now serves as its graveyard. The panorama is composed of 354 individual images provided by the rover’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111

NASA explained that Opportunity was not expected to last 15 years, but noted it had contributed greatly to their understanding of the planet¿s geology and environment, ¿laying groundwork for future robotic and human missions on the Red Planet¿, the American space agency said in a statement

NASA explained that Opportunity was not expected to last 15 years, but noted it had contributed greatly to their understanding of the planet¿s geology and environment, ¿laying groundwork for future robotic and human missions on the Red Planet¿, the American space agency said in a statement

NASA explained that Opportunity was not expected to last 15 years, but noted it had contributed greatly to their understanding of the planet’s geology and environment, ‘laying groundwork for future robotic and human missions on the Red Planet’, the American space agency said in a statement

NASA explained that Opportunity was not expected to last 15 years, but noted it had contributed greatly to their understanding of the planet’s geology and environment, ‘laying groundwork for future robotic and human missions on the Red Planet’, the American space agency said in a statement.

After eight months of effort and sending more than a thousand commands in an attempt to restore contact with the rover, NASA declared Opportunity’s mission complete on Feb. 13, 2019.

With the death of the Opportunity rover also comes the end of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers program, which launched from Cape Canaveral in July 2003 with the twin robots, Spirit and Opportunity. 

Spirit met its end back in 2011, a year after getting stuck in the sand and losing contact with Earth.

After eight months of effort and sending more than a thousand commands in an attempt to restore contact with the rover, NASA declared Opportunity's mission complete on Feb. 13, 2019

After eight months of effort and sending more than a thousand commands in an attempt to restore contact with the rover, NASA declared Opportunity's mission complete on Feb. 13, 2019

After eight months of effort and sending more than a thousand commands in an attempt to restore contact with the rover, NASA declared Opportunity’s mission complete on Feb. 13, 2019

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said during the press conference in February: ‘I’m standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude, as I declare the Opportunity mission complete – and with it the Mars exploration mission as compete.’

‘I will never forget the amazing work that happened here, it transformed our understanding of the red planet.’

The Mars rover, affectionately known as ‘Oppy,’ far surpassed the expectations of the team that’s operated it for so long.

The panorama shows a detailed view of the Perseverance Valley including the rover's tracks left behind as it traveled through the desolate landscape

The panorama shows a detailed view of the Perseverance Valley including the rover's tracks left behind as it traveled through the desolate landscape

The panorama shows a detailed view of the Perseverance Valley including the rover’s tracks left behind as it traveled through the desolate landscape

It was designed to last just 90 Martian days (90 sols), during which it would travel a total of 1,000 meters (1100 yards).

But somehow, Oppy survived 14-and-a-half years after touching down on the red planet, pushing its limits to travel almost 30 miles to reshape our understanding of Mars.

It withstood years of extreme temperatures and radiation, but finally met its match this past spring, when a planet-wide dust storm encircled Mars and blotted out the sun.

This proved to be a fatal blow for Opportunity, as the rover relies entirely on solar energy to power its instruments.

More than 1,000 recovery commands were sent over the course of eight months in a bid to revive the robotic geologist.

NASA made one final attempt to contact Opportunity Rover (pictured) eight months after the spacecraft last made contact. A giant dust storm blocked sunlight from Mars in 2018, stopping Opportunity's solar-powered batteries from being able to recharge

NASA made one final attempt to contact Opportunity Rover (pictured) eight months after the spacecraft last made contact. A giant dust storm blocked sunlight from Mars in 2018, stopping Opportunity's solar-powered batteries from being able to recharge

NASA made one final attempt to contact Opportunity Rover (pictured) eight months after the spacecraft last made contact. A giant dust storm blocked sunlight from Mars in 2018, stopping Opportunity’s solar-powered batteries from being able to recharge

WHAT DID ‘OPPY’ ACHIEVE ON MARS?

Though Opportunity was intended to last just 90 Martian sols, it survived for a staggering 14-and-a-half years. 

According to NASA, its many successes include:

  • A one-day Mars driving record March 20, 2005, when it traveled 721 feet (220 meters)
  • More than 217,000 images, including 15 360-degree color panoramas
  • Exposed the surfaces of 52 rocks to reveal fresh mineral surfaces, and cleared 72 additional targets with a brush to prepare them for inspection 
  • Found hematite, a mineral that forms in water, at its landing site
  • Discovered strong indications at Endeavor Crater of the action of ancient water similar to drinkable water of a pond or lake on Earth

 

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Las Vegas Aces Rookie Kate Martin Suffers Ankle Injury in Game Against Chicago Sky

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Las Vegas Aces rookie Kate Martin had to be helped off the floor and taken to the locker room after suffering an apparent ankle injury in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago Sky.

Late in the first quarter, Martin was pushing the ball up the court when she appeared to twist her ankle and lost her balance. The rookie was in serious pain, lying on the floor before eventually being helped off. Her entire team came out in support, and although she managed to put some pressure on the leg, she was taken to the locker room for further evaluation.

Martin returned to the team’s bench late in the second quarter but was ruled out for the remainder of the game.

“Kate Martin is awesome. Kate Martin picks up things so quickly, she’s an amazing sponge,” Aces guard Kelsey Plum said of the rookie during the preseason. “I think (coach) Becky (Hammon) nicknamed her Kate ‘Money’ Martin. I think that’s gonna stick. And when I say ‘money,’ it’s not just about scoring and stuff, she’s just in the right place at the right time. She just makes people better. And that’s what Becky values, that’s what our coaching staff values and that’s why she’s gonna be a great asset to our team.”

Las Vegas selected Martin in the second round of the 2024 WNBA Draft. She was coming off the best season of her collegiate career at Iowa, where she averaged 13.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game during the 2023-24 campaign. Martin’s integration into the Aces organization has been seamless, with her quickly earning the respect and admiration of her teammates and coaches.

The team and fans alike are hoping for a speedy recovery for Martin, whose contributions have been vital to the Aces’ performance this season.

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Asteroid Apophis will visit Earth in 2029, and this European satellite will be along for the ride

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The European Space Agency is fast-tracking a new mission called Ramses, which will fly to near-Earth asteroid 99942 Apophis and join the space rock in 2029 when it comes very close to our planet — closer even than the region where geosynchronous satellites sit.

Ramses is short for Rapid Apophis Mission for Space Safety and, as its name suggests, is the next phase in humanity’s efforts to learn more about near-Earth asteroids (NEOs) and how we might deflect them should one ever be discovered on a collision course with planet Earth.

In order to launch in time to rendezvous with Apophis in February 2029, scientists at the European Space Agency have been given permission to start planning Ramses even before the multinational space agency officially adopts the mission. The sanctioning and appropriation of funding for the Ramses mission will hopefully take place at ESA’s Ministerial Council meeting (involving representatives from each of ESA’s member states) in November of 2025. To arrive at Apophis in February 2029, launch would have to take place in April 2028, the agency says.

This is a big deal because large asteroids don’t come this close to Earth very often. It is thus scientifically precious that, on April 13, 2029, Apophis will pass within 19,794 miles (31,860 kilometers) of Earth. For comparison, geosynchronous orbit is 22,236 miles (35,786 km) above Earth’s surface. Such close fly-bys by asteroids hundreds of meters across (Apophis is about 1,230 feet, or 375 meters, across) only occur on average once every 5,000 to 10,000 years. Miss this one, and we’ve got a long time to wait for the next.

When Apophis was discovered in 2004, it was for a short time the most dangerous asteroid known, being classified as having the potential to impact with Earth possibly in 2029, 2036, or 2068. Should an asteroid of its size strike Earth, it could gouge out a crater several kilometers across and devastate a country with shock waves, flash heating and earth tremors. If it crashed down in the ocean, it could send a towering tsunami to devastate coastlines in multiple countries.

Over time, as our knowledge of Apophis’ orbit became more refined, however, the risk of impact  greatly went down. Radar observations of the asteroid in March of 2021 reduced the uncertainty in Apophis’ orbit from hundreds of kilometers to just a few kilometers, finally removing any lingering worries about an impact — at least for the next 100 years. (Beyond 100 years, asteroid orbits can become too unpredictable to plot with any accuracy, but there’s currently no suggestion that an impact will occur after 100 years.) So, Earth is expected to be perfectly safe in 2029 when Apophis comes through. Still, scientists want to see how Apophis responds by coming so close to Earth and entering our planet’s gravitational field.

“There is still so much we have yet to learn about asteroids but, until now, we have had to travel deep into the solar system to study them and perform experiments ourselves to interact with their surface,” said Patrick Michel, who is the Director of Research at CNRS at Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur in Nice, France, in a statement. “Nature is bringing one to us and conducting the experiment itself. All we need to do is watch as Apophis is stretched and squeezed by strong tidal forces that may trigger landslides and other disturbances and reveal new material from beneath the surface.”

The Goldstone radar’s imagery of asteroid 99942 Apophis as it made its closest approach to Earth, in March 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL–Caltech/NSF/AUI/GBO)

By arriving at Apophis before the asteroid’s close encounter with Earth, and sticking with it throughout the flyby and beyond, Ramses will be in prime position to conduct before-and-after surveys to see how Apophis reacts to Earth. By looking for disturbances Earth’s gravitational tidal forces trigger on the asteroid’s surface, Ramses will be able to learn about Apophis’ internal structure, density, porosity and composition, all of which are characteristics that we would need to first understand before considering how best to deflect a similar asteroid were one ever found to be on a collision course with our world.

Besides assisting in protecting Earth, learning about Apophis will give scientists further insights into how similar asteroids formed in the early solar system, and, in the process, how  planets (including Earth) formed out of the same material.

One way we already know Earth will affect Apophis is by changing its orbit. Currently, Apophis is categorized as an Aten-type asteroid, which is what we call the class of near-Earth objects that have a shorter orbit around the sun than Earth does. Apophis currently gets as far as 0.92 astronomical units (137.6 million km, or 85.5 million miles) from the sun. However, our planet will give Apophis a gravitational nudge that will enlarge its orbit to 1.1 astronomical units (164.6 million km, or 102 million miles), such that its orbital period becomes longer than Earth’s.

It will then be classed as an Apollo-type asteroid.

Ramses won’t be alone in tracking Apophis. NASA has repurposed their OSIRIS-REx mission, which returned a sample from another near-Earth asteroid, 101955 Bennu, in 2023. However, the spacecraft, renamed OSIRIS-APEX (Apophis Explorer), won’t arrive at the asteroid until April 23, 2029, ten days after the close encounter with Earth. OSIRIS-APEX will initially perform a flyby of Apophis at a distance of about 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from the object, then return in June that year to settle into orbit around Apophis for an 18-month mission.

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Furthermore, the European Space Agency still plans on launching its Hera spacecraft in October 2024 to follow-up on the DART mission to the double asteroid Didymos and Dimorphos. DART impacted the latter in a test of kinetic impactor capabilities for potentially changing a hazardous asteroid’s orbit around our planet. Hera will survey the binary asteroid system and observe the crater made by DART’s sacrifice to gain a better understanding of Dimorphos’ structure and composition post-impact, so that we can place the results in context.

The more near-Earth asteroids like Dimorphos and Apophis that we study, the greater that context becomes. Perhaps, one day, the understanding that we have gained from these missions will indeed save our planet.

 

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McMaster Astronomy grad student takes a star turn in Killarney Provincial Park

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Astronomy PhD candidate Veronika Dornan served as the astronomer in residence at Killarney Provincial Park. She’ll be back again in October when the nights are longer (and bug free). Dornan has delivered dozens of talks and shows at the W.J. McCallion Planetarium and in the community. (Photos by Veronika Dornan)

Veronika Dornan followed up the April 8 total solar eclipse with another awe-inspiring celestial moment.

This time, the astronomy PhD candidate wasn’t cheering alongside thousands of people at McMaster — she was alone with a telescope in the heart of Killarney Provincial Park just before midnight.

Dornan had the park’s telescope pointed at one of the hundreds of globular star clusters that make up the Milky Way. She was seeing light from thousands of stars that had travelled more than 10,000 years to reach the Earth.

This time there was no cheering: All she could say was a quiet “wow”.

Dornan drove five hours north to spend a week at Killarney Park as the astronomer in residence. part of an outreach program run by the park in collaboration with the Allan I. Carswell Observatory at York University.

Dornan applied because the program combines her two favourite things — astronomy and the great outdoors. While she’s a lifelong camper, hiker and canoeist, it was her first trip to Killarney.

Bruce Waters, who’s taught astronomy to the public since 1981 and co-founded Stars over Killarney, warned Dornan that once she went to the park, she wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.

The park lived up to the hype. Everywhere she looked was like a painting, something “a certain Group of Seven had already thought many times over.”

The dome telescopes at Killarney Provincial Park.

She spent her days hiking the Granite Ridge, Crack and Chikanishing trails and kayaking on George Lake.  At night, she went stargazing with campers — or at least tried to. The weather didn’t cooperate most evenings — instead of looking through the park’s two domed telescopes, Dornan improvised and gave talks in the amphitheatre beneath cloudy skies.

Dornan has delivered dozens of talks over the years in McMaster’s W.J. McCallion Planetarium and out in the community, but “it’s a bit more complicated when you’re talking about the stars while at the same time fighting for your life against swarms of bugs.”

When the campers called it a night and the clouds parted, Dornan spent hours observing the stars. “I seriously messed up my sleep schedule.”

She also gave astrophotography a try during her residency, capturing images of the Ring Nebula and the Great Hercules Cluster.

A star cluster image by Veronika Dornan

“People assume astronomers take their own photos. I needed quite a lot of guidance for how to take the images. It took a while to fiddle with the image properties, but I got my images.”

Dornan’s been invited back for another week-long residency in bug-free October, when longer nights offer more opportunities to explore and photograph the final frontier.

She’s aiming to defend her PhD thesis early next summer, then build a career that continues to combine research and outreach.

“Research leads to new discoveries which gives you exciting things to talk about. And if you’re not connecting with the public then what’s the point of doing research?”

 

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