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).
This is the first such video ever generated from a spacecraft orbiting Mars. (And the VMC team here would like to thank Gordan Ugarković, developer of the VMC2RGB utility that enables VMC colour extraction - Thanks, Gordan!)
The movie shows views of Mars as Mars Express loops between apoapsis (maximum height above the surface), at 10,527 km, to periapsis (lowest height), at just 358 km, and back again. Note the inset box at top left, showing the altitude and relative location of Mars Express as it loops around Mars.
The giant volcanoes of Mars can be clearly seen at the start of the video, visible as a constellation of dark spots on the desert surface. They are followed by a glimpse of the icy South Pole before plunging into the darkness of the planet's night side. Daylight returns with a soaring ride over the spiral ices of the Martian North Pole.
Toward the beginning and end of the video, as Mars Express slows down during the highest arc of its orbit, Mars can be seen rotating on its axis. At the very end, Phobos passes far beneath Mars Express, and the tiny moon's disk can be seen as adark circle moving from top to bottom of the image.
It also shows how Phobos orbits Mars as well as numerous geographic features on the Martian surface. The fact that the viewer enters darkness on the night side and comes back out on the morning side (and can see surface features rotating into the light) also shows how night and day are created by a planet's rotation - just like our own dusk and dawn on Earth.
The images used to generate the video, 600 in total, were acquired during the 8194th orbit on 27 May 2010 between 02:00 and 09:00 UTC (03:00-10:00 CEST) and were transmitted to Earth a few hours later via ESA's 35m New Norcia deep space station in Australia.
Relational view generated in Celestia
We've also created an animation using Celestia to show the relative positions of Mars and Mars Express during the orbit when the video images were acquired.((You can see the small version below; click here to view the same animation in full size.))
The video is the result of a great deal of work done by the Mars Express operations team - the Mars Express science team and ESOC Flight Dynamics also provided crucial support and, in fact, we couldn't have compiled this video without their active cooperation. Thanks to everyone!
As with all our VMC image sets, you're invited to download the raw 27 May images and try your hand at creating your own 'Mars orbit video'. With a bit of effort and using free software tools such as Gimp, you can play with frame rates, lighting, rotation and other aspects of the images. And when you're done, send us a copy - we'd be delighted to publish a gallery of the best!
Image sets are here:
The video below is the same as the original, except a time & distance counter has been inserted at top-left. Enjoy!