Curiosity Panorama In Full Color

Gale Crater Panorama. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. CLICK to zoom image.

Curiosity rover’s first full-color 360-degree panorama of the Gale Crater landing site on Mars. Created by combining 130 144×144 pixel thumbnail images taken by the Mast Camera.

“Scientists will be taking a closer look at several splotches in the foreground that appear gray. These areas show the effects of the descent stage’s rocket engines blasting the ground. What appeared as a dark strip of dunes in previous, black-and-white pictures from Curiosity can also be seen along the top of this mosaic, but the color images also reveal additional shades of reddish brown around the dunes, likely indicating different textures or materials.” ~NASA/JPL

Source: Mars.JPL.NASA.Gov


Curiosity Rover Landing: Monday Aug. 6th, 1:31AM

Don’t miss it! The Mars Science Laboratory, carrying the Curiosity Rover will be landing on the Planet Mars EARLY on Monday the 6th!  1:31 AM.

Watch it on NASA TV!

Mars Science Laboratory aerobraking in the Atmosphere of Mars.

Curiosity Rover being lowered to the surface of Mars on the “Sky Crane.” Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Rover on Mars: Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Curiosity’s main assignment is to investigate whether its study area ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. To do that, it packs a science payload weighing 15 times as much as the science instruments on previous Mars rovers. The landing target, an area about 12 miles by 4 miles (20 kilometers by 7 kilometers), sits in a safely flat area between less-safe slopes of the rim of Gale Crater and the crater’s central peak, informally called Mount Sharp. The target was plotted to be within driving distance of layers on Mount Sharp, where minerals that formed in water have been seen from orbit.”~NASA


Finding Iridium Flares & ISS Fly-Overs From Any Location

Iridium Flare time-exposure

Iridium Flares are bright reflections from orbiting communications satellite panels. They are a VERY localized event – an observer a few miles from the “center” location of a Flare will see it at reduced magnitude – if they see it at all. Iridium Flares appear almost like a meteor, but they are VERY predictable – down to the second.

Iridium Satellite showing reflective panels

To find when an Iridium Flare (or ISS fly-over) is happening at your location, do this:

1) Get the Latitude and Longitude of the location you want to observe from – your driveway, an outreach event venue, etc. You can get it from here:
2) Create a free account at
3) Edit your profile at create a new viewing location, enter your Latitude and Longitude, and save your new location.
4) Return to the home page, and pick which satellite you’d like to see: IIS, Iridium, etc.
5) Daytime Iridium flares are listed – try to see one!
6) Tell us if you’ve seen one!

I also HIGHLY suggest using Stellarium to find Iridium locations:

1) Launch Stellarium.
2) Stop Stellarum’s timer: mouse to lower left -> popup menu -> on the right click to right-triangle |> to toggle to pause mode ||.
3) Change to the date/time of the event: mouse to left side -> popup menu -> Date/Time [F5] -> set time of Iridium Flare you got from
4) Find the satellite (this is a bit convoluted): mouse to left side -> popup menu -> Configuration Window [F2] -> Plugins Tab (top, right) -> Satellites (on left bar) -> Configure Button (bottom) -> Satellites Tab (top) -> Double-click Satellite name in List (use drop-down to sort)
5) You will see something like this:

Stellarium Screen Capture: Iridium Flare over Stargate Observatory July 28, 2012 11:21:15 PM

I’m starting to post weekly Iridium Flare lists for my community on my blog.