May 12, 2010
When some Mars explorers learned of plans for a worldwide photography event combining shots taken from thousands of different locations on May 2, 2010, they figured, "Why just one world?"
A New York Times photography blog, Lens, proposed the event and has received more than 12,000 images from around the world. Plus one from a rover on Mars.
The inspiration came from a suggestion by Emily Lakdawalla, science and technology coordinator for The Planetary Society in Pasadena, Calif.
Astronomer Jim Bell of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., lead scientist for the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, suggested that the rover team include commands for Opportunity to take multiple exposures late in the Martian afternoon on May 2. The resulting scene extends from the rover's own deck to ochre sky above the horizon more than 3 kilometers (2 miles) away. Dramatically shaded ripples of windblown sand reach toward the distant horizon.
The Opportunity image is highlighted at the Lens blog at: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/12/readers-19/. The entire gallery of "Moment in Time" images, the vast majority from Planet Earth, is online at: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/05/03/blogs/a-moment-in-time.html#/4bdd9784db799a656b0002e9.
The Lens blog proposed that photos be shot at 1500 Universal Time (UT, or Greenwich Mean Time) on May 2 from locations around the world. For logistical reasons, the rover instead took the pictures just before 1500 "local true solar time" on Mars, which was about 1115 UT on May 2 on Earth. Shortly afterwards, the rover transmitted the image data to NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, which relayed them to Earth.
"It wasn't until about 1500 Universal Time on Earth that we could actually see the images and combine them into a mosaic," Bell said. "So we shot the mosaic on Mars at around 1500 local Mars time and received and processed the image on Earth around 1500 Universal Time. In those respects, we hope that our entry is consistent with the spirit of the rules, making this a truly interplanetary event."
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif