The dark shadows of Mars

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recently used a low sun angle to snap a memorable view of a large Martian crater.

The resulting view catches a shadow of the rover in the foreground and the giant basin in the distance. 

In the photo, Opportunity is perched on the western rim of Endeavour Crater looking eastward. The crater spans approximately 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter, and Opportunity has been studying the edge of the Crater since arriving on location in August 2011.

The scene is presented in false color to emphasize differences in materials such as dark dunes on the crater floor – giving portions of the image an aqua tint.

Opportunity took most of the component images on March 9, 2012, while the solar-powered rover was spending several weeks at a single location to preserve energy during the harsh Martian winter. 

It has since resumed its mission and is currently investigating a patch of windblown Martian dust near its winter haven.

Opportunity and its rover twin, Spirit, completed their three-month prime missions on Mars in April 2004. Both rovers continued for years of extended missions, making important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. 

Since landing in the Meridiani region of Mars in January 2004, Opportunity has driven approximately 21.4 miles over rugged Martian terrain (Spirit stopped communicating in 2010).