General , Public Submissions
23 August, 2010 10:09
School report: Mars Webcam Project by Gymnasium Vaterstetten
We are delighted today to bring you a detailed post on the excellent Mars Webcam project submitted by the Astronomy Group at the Humboldt Gymnasium (high school) in Vaterstetten, near Munich, Germany. The project began in March 2010, when the school's Astronomy Group, led by teacher Markus Schmidtner, set forth the following project goal:
The astronomy group of the grammar school in Vaterstetten, Germany, was happy to get the opportunity to adopt a VMC-Operation. This operation took place on 23rd of March 21 from 0:28 a.m. to 1:08 a.m. At this moment the satellite was situated near the apocenter of the orbit, the highest altitude above the planet. The aim was to process the raw - images supplied by ESA and then compare the images taken with the Visual-Monitoring-Camera (VMC) with our own telescope images and to generate a stereo image with the data of the VMC.
Our post today includes several of the excellent images processed and developed by the school team as well as links to their full PDF & web report.
"Speaking on behalf of the entire Mars Express Flight Control Team, I am very impressed with the work done by the teachers and students at the Humboldt Gymnasium. Their work, analysis and results prove the value both educational and scientific of even 'low-tech' images delivered from deep space. Congratulations on a project well done and we wish you continued success in your studies."
-- ESA's Michel Denis, Mars Express Spacecraft Operations Manager, ESA/ESOC
All of us here at the Mars Webcam blog were tremendously impressed with the work done by the students. The goal was to analyse VMC images and determine how these compare in resolution to images obtained from the ground and, interestingly, from the joint ESA-NASA Hubble Space Telescope.
The student team was able to demonstrate that the VMC camera, viewing Mars from 10 000 km, provides images having similar resolution to those provided by the Hubble telescope viewing Mars at 88 million km. They also created an excellent stereo image of Mars.
Congratulations and thanks for an excellent report!
"When Mars Express leaves apocenter and approaches the Planet, resolution of VMC images will increase so much that even the powerful Hubble Telescope has no chance - this shows drastically the importance of missions like Mars Express. If you want to find out, you must go there..."
-- Humboldt Gymnasium VMC Project Report
Click on 'Full story' to access more details and links. -- Daniel
Full story »
General , Public Submissions
18 August, 2010 11:50
North polar cap - posters by Peter Wellmann
Peter Wellmann, from Germany, has sent in two excellent Mars poster compositions using the fabulous 8 August polar cap image set.
His first poster comprises a cleverly processed main image (based on two of the raw VMC images) and several smaller images to provide location and orientation information. Peter has also included a detailed identification and description of craters, possible dust clouds and the day-night terminator. The second poster shows the original processed image in a larger size.
"On the way out to apocenter, Mars Express VMC shot this wonderful picture of the South Polar Cap emerging from the dark terminator above. Composed of two RAW-frames it shows fine colour shades and a lot of small craters not readily seen in the single frames. The lower left might show some dust, clouds or haze, the bottom right corner shows bright patches in the region of Moreux crater we suggest to be clouds."
Access Peter's full report and full-size versions of his images under 'Full story below'. Thanks, Peter, for an excellent submission! -- Daniel
Full story »
General , Image Sets
16 August, 2010 15:05
Recent Mars Webcam image sets: Why are some corrupted?
If you look closely at the image set captured on 8 August, you might notice that images 7-9 are corrupted and images 10-12 are missing completely. Nothing to worry about - VMC is performing perfectly! What you're seeing is, in fact, the affect our own planet can have on our exploration of Mars!
These images were sent back from Mars early in the afternoon of 10 August and received via ESA's 35m deep space station in Cebreros, near Madrid. At that time, Cebreros was experiencing severe, heavy rain which caused problems with the reception of the Mars Express signal containing the VMC images - just as you may have noticed degradation on your satellite television at home during a storm.
So nothing to worry about, but a nice reminder that while we can operate a spacecraft flying around another planet, we are still at the mercy of mother nature! -- Thomas
Animation & comparison: two excellent creations based on Mars Webcam images
Long-time VMC supporter Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society has created an excellent animation from the image set acquired 8 August by Mars Express as it soared over the Red Planet's northern ice cap.
Yesterday, I found a really nice set that I just had to animate, taken from a relatively low altitude over the picturesque swirls of Mars' north polar cap, which is brightly lit now by round-the-clock summer sun. This animation is composed of 23 photos taken by the 'Mars Webcam' aboard Mars Express, spanning a little more than half an hour on August 9, 2010. During the animation, Mars Express recedes from an altitude of about 4100 kilometers to about 7000 kilometers above the planet. The twisted canyons of Mars' north polar cap occupy the center of the view. Click here for a version at the camera's full resolution.
We were delighted to see such a quick and well-done response to this image set - good work and thanks, Emily!
Another long-time friend of the VMC, Mike Malaska, also posted a very nice comparison between two VMC images taken some six weeks apart, on 27 May and 8 August.
The north pole is at center in the two images, the 300 longitude line is approximately at top. Large differences in ice cover can be seen near Chasma Boreale (the deep chasm at lower center). The triangle shaped region at upper right is Olympia Mensae. Interestingly, while the August 8th image generally seems to have more ice overall, the region just poleward of Olympia Undae (which is the darker region poleward of Olympia Mensae) seems less ice covered than in the May 27th image.
Well done, Mike - and thanks to you also!
With two strong creations based on the excellent 8 August VMC image set, we thought it would be interesting to provide some background info on how the Mars Webcam acquired these frosty polar pictures. Hannes Griebel, Mars Express Spacecraft Operations Engineer and multiple past contributor to our VMC Blog, works on the mission planning system, and he provided this description.
Mars Express primary scientific observations are always prioritised ahead of VMC operations. This usually leaves only small VMC picture-taking opportunities at the maximum distance from Mars (apocentre), since conditions at this point in the the spacecraft's orbit are often not usable for science operations (due to the large distance to the planet and firings from the Mars Express thrusters). Occasionally, an observation slot is available at a lower altitude, allowing VMC to operate much closer to the planet and take spectacular, and for such a simple device, quite detailed, images - such as the recent polar images from 8 August. When such a slot occurs, the Mars Express Flight Control Team at ESOC do all they can to make the most of the opportunity, while still maintaining the primary science operations required by the Mars Express mission.
Images from any VMC observation, routine or special, are uploaded and made available via the VMC Blog immediately after they are received on the ground from Mars Express. However, their real potential is often revealed only after members of the public turn them into stunning compositions and animations - which we are delighted to receive and share via posting in the VMC Blog from here at ESOC! If you want to submit any work based on raw VMC image sets - be it processed images, animations, a poem, an artistic interpretation, an analysis of the image content or (more or less) anything else - then please feel free to contact us (you can find more details under Help us with VMC in the links to the right of this page).
Thanks, Hannes, for this background report - and from all of us on the VMC team, thanks to everyone who has submitted results to the VMC Blog.
Keep up the great work!
-- Daniel Scuka
School report: Mars Webcam Project by Colegiul National Iasi
We have a wonderful update for you today, reporting on the tremendous work done by the students at Colegiul National in Iasi, Romania, using Mars Webcam images as input for some excellent creative and scientific activities.
As we reported earlier, the Mars Webcam team here at ESA/ESOC were able recently to assist a school outreach project organised in cooperation with the Mars Society Germany. As part of the plan, the Colegiul National in Iasi, a junior college in north-eastern Romania, downloaded a selected set of VMC images and prepared a project report with the students' analysis and interpretations. In fact, their activities went well beyond a simple project report!
The school formed a 'Next Generation' team of students (middle-school and junior high school age - all interested in "physics, geography and everything new") and teachers, and they spent the six intensive weeks after receipt of the VMC image set, which was acquired on 3 April 2010, working on a whole series of activities.
Early in June, Mars Express Spacecraft Operations Engineer Hannes Griebel and myself had the pleasure of participating in a video conference with the students, conducted between their school library and the MEX Dedicated Control Room (DCR) here at ESA/ESOC. The students conducted a keynote presentation - in English, German and French - for us, reviewing the activities they had undertaken in the past weeks.
Click on 'Full story' for complete details and to access links to some of the school's excellent output -- Daniel
Full story »
600 Frame Flypast!!!
The UK's Stuart Atkinson, a writer and astronomy outreach educator, maintains Astropoetry, a unique site dedicated to poetry that includes space, astronomy and exploration as a central theme. Stu says that the site is a venue for his efforts at creating poetry that "reflects the beauty of the universe and our achievements in exploring and understanding it, and our place in it."
We were delighted earlier today when he published 600 Frame Flypast to honour Mars Express and the VMC video that went live earlier this week. An extract:
Of its ancient rusted rocks, Everest-mocking
Volcanoes and Grand Canyon-shaming vales…
But today we watched it wax and wane
Through VMC, Mars Express’ smallest eye
And sighed, wishing we were there
Thanks, Stu, for a really terrific poem!
Read Stuart's full poem here, at Astropoetry: http://astropoetry.wordpress.com/2010/06/05/600-frame-flypast/
VMC video - submission by Hannes Griebel
Hannes Griebel, Mars Express operations and mission planning engineer, has sent us his own versions of the VMC video, which he's reworked into several formats. Thanks, Hannes! And remember: we'd be delighted to receive similar efforts from anyone who would like to try their hand at generating a video (or any other production) from the raw image set of 27 May (here and here). Artistic, scientific, interpretative, whatever: take a look and give it a try. We'll republish the best submissions right here in the blog.
Clik on 'Full story' for more details and to view all versions of Hannes' work. -- Daniel
Full story »
General , Image Sets
02 June, 2010 15:30
Astronaut-eye view of Mars from orbit: A unique video tour of the Red Planet
The Mars Express VMC team here at ESOC are delighted to publish today's special treat: a movie carefully compiled from 600 VMC images snapped during a single, complete 7-hour orbit on 27 May 2010. This video shows what future astronauts would likely see from their cockpit window: Mars turning below them as they sweep in orbit around the Red Planet, our beautiful planetary neighbour!
- The original 27 May image files are avilable in two earlier posts - we heartily invite all keen VMC fans to try their hand at creating their own versions!
- Also, at the very bottom of this post, you can see a second version of this video with a time/distance counter embedded at the top.
Click on the 'Full story' link for more details and a description of our video(s).
Full story »
Mars Express mission operations team supports school project
The Mars Webcam team here at ESA/ESOC were able recently to assist a school outreach project organised in cooperation with the Mars Society Germany. As part of the plan, the Colegiul National in Iasi, a junior college in north-eastern Romania, downloaded a selected set of VMC images and are now preparing a project report with the students' analysis and interpretations. Cool! Here's an extract from the update they posted on the school website recently (thanks to Luciana for the translated text!):
In January of this year, the Colegiul National Gymnasium in Iasi, north-eastern Romania, who is a partner group to the organisation Mars Society Germany, decided to develop a comprehensive and educational project. The goal of the project is to depict space and space exploration to young students (Kinder garden and ages 11-16) in a more attractive light. Science, technology and international teamwork will play and even more important role in the future and the project hopes to awaken the students' interests in these topics. The project, called "Next Generation", is carried out in many levels and workshops. Although "Next Generation" only takes place in the school in Iasi, it can later be used as a model for similar projects.
As part of this project, the students decided to analyse an image set acquired with the VMC Camera on the Mars Express spacecraft. The Mars Society Germany turned to the Mars Express flight control team at ESA's European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, where they were asked to make suggestions for an observation which fit according to ESOC plans and didn't impact any other activities. After the suggestion of the "Next Generation" team was accepted, the group of students received their very own VMC image set (see picture). The series of pictures was taken on 3 April 2010 and received on Earth shortly after.
The special thing about this observation is the perspective - in which the Tharsis volcanos (x3), Olympus Mons and Argyre Planitia are shown, which usually require powerful professional telescopes for viewing from Earth. A complete description and analyses of the picture series will be publicized in the near future.
We hope to post a follow-up shortly with the students' results!
16 February, 2010 12:24
Mars Webcam: A Public Outreach Success
Jonathan Schulster from the Mars Express team at ESA/ESOC gave a presentation today at the International Space University (ISU) 14th Annual Symposium: The Public Face of Space. His presentation PPT is available in SlideShare.net, or click on 'Full story' for access. -- Daniel
Full story »