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Phoenix descending -- and caught in the act!

20 Sep 2013, 14:46 UTC
Phoenix descending -- and caught in the act!
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

This really is an extraordinary picture (though Typepad seems to be trying to hide that fact: click on it for better resolution). It's Phoenix on its way down, caught from orbit by the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter's HiRISE camera, parachute deployed, shrounds taut, swiningin down like a gnat in a spotlight. (Also a salutary reminder that the surface of Mars, being basalt, is really really dark; this is not a night shot).

As I said way back here there's something truly remarkable about one spacecraft seen from another. Since then HiRISE has given us a bunch of shots of the MER landers (and indeed the Malin MOC did so before it). But this shot of a spacecraft in transit caught by another hundreds of kilometres away moving at a realtive velocity of thousands of kilometres an hour -- and the knowledge it implies of how well the people involved understand the precise positions and orientations of their minions half way across the sky -- is really something else.

Wow.

Eric at Nature's In the Field has more, on that picture and on everything else Phoenician.

UPDATE: BBC Radio Three just asked me to go on their Nightwaves slot ...

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