Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Today's physics lesson:

Ultraviolet rays can burn you even if it's cloudy. The higher one's altitude, the more severe the risk -- especially if you're traipsing around mountaintop observatories. (If the subject has a shaved head, this increased exposure can lead to mild burns in a remarkably short length of time.)

In addition to scheduled filming, today I hooked up with Dr. Leo Sprinkle (who I personally hope makes the cut, although his inclusion was about as serendipitous as you can get).

I'd probably be in the hotel pool right now if I'd remembered to bring swimming trunks. But at least now I have a hat.


0uterj0in said...

Wyoming's great. Lots of skiing there when I was a lad. Are you going to devil's tower?

Tony F. said...

"Putting the blog on hiatus" in Tonnie's speak roughly translates into, "You will hear from me just about as much. In fact, I'm going to start a second blog and dedicate it entirely to my hiatus, writing about my experiences and posting media."

Dude, you just can't switch off. Admit your problem now.

Anonymous said...

Hi mac,

Mac said...


It would appear your diagnosis is correct...

Anonymous said...

Guys, sorry to go off topic but what the hell is this? Maybe you guys have seen this before. Straight from jpl


Mac said...


Hey, that *is* weird.

Anonymous said...

Can you believe JPL actually displays those images unedited or at all? Notice the metallic looking nature of those objects flanking the dark square. The two are symmetrical, and have those protuberences that make them look like something out of a video game. I saw an image of this (without the fish eye lense perspective) on a site 6 months ago, and it didn't last 2 hours before it was taken down. Oh well.

anonymous #2 said...


There are a whole lot more "rear HAZCAM" engineering camera pix at the site you reference--these pix were taken near the Gusev Crater by the Spirit rover.

See: http://tinyurl.com/2f6ru for the collection of raw photo footage from the various cameras on-board.

Most of the other "rear HAZCAM" pictures show the same three artificial looking objects on what appears like a "ridge" in the top of the picture, and there are other strange artifacts in the pix.

However, I can only think this is somehow a strange kind of trompe l'oeil ("deceives the eye") effect of some kind. I sent an email to JPL/MarsOutreach about this, so maybe an explanation is forthcoming.

The only thing I can speculate is that perhaps this is part of the landing pad of the Spirit rover after the rover went a few feet away, but even that's a stretch. Fairly strange looking, probably due to the fisheye lens used, but probably mundane.

AlphaNerd said...

Hi, i'm the anon who's been posting above.

Mac, this looks like the Gusav crater rim. The rover did not land there. That pretty much rules out the possibility that these objects are part of the landing gear entourage.

I notice in some pics that data is missing just past the foreground. Some of the images show natural terrain right up to those objects and some don't.

Regaring those objects, one explanation could be that they are actually part of the rover itself but if you examine them carefully, it becomes apparent that they are indeed part of the landscape. The symmetrical nature of the two objects flanking that 'hangar- looking' dark rectangle are quite confounding. They have a very distinctive geometry, look somewhat mechanical in nature and look nothing like nasa-engineered devices we have ever come across.

Like i mentioned earlier, i saw a more conventional color image of this (non fish-eye lens) some months ago and even created an image of what it looked like, because it had quickly been yanked from that site after just a few hours. I pretty much assumed it was a manipulated image until now. If you want to see this rendering i made, you can look here.


Please let us know what their explanation is if they respond.

Number 2 said...

"Please let us know what their explanation is if they respond."


It was not Mac posting above, it was me, anon #2.

Looked at your .bmp file--fairly distorted recreation.

Relevant photographic hazcam imagery now saved, just in case.

I'll let you know if JPL responds.

"Be seeing you." --The Prisoner

Number 2 said...


The raw "hazcam" photo image on your blog would indicate the "three objects" are actually part of the Spirit rover itself--the whitish curved band between the ground and the portion of rover imagery where what look like three separate objects are was apparently clipped and "rolled/reversed", and is what misled you, and until I saw the image on your blog, misled me.

Notice the faint rover wheel tracks showing in the foreground parallel, but in reverse, to the fainter ones shown in the upper portion of the photo where the "three objects" are--this would indicate a very bizarre distortion due to the nature of the camera image created by the fisheye lens--the "whitish" curved band is a photo artifact probably due to the scanning and reassembly process employed--why JPL released these photos completely without explanation, and which would suggest to most something anomalous, is unknown and probably just an oversight. Pareidolia. Sheesh! How embarraskin'. ;')

Whomever at JPL got my earlier email asking, essentially, "WTF?", probably had a good little laugh at our mutually naive expense. If they reply, I'll post the response here. Pardon our silly little tangent, here, Mac.

AlphaNerd said...

Ah sorry, i assumed you were mac. Pardon me for that.

I'll assume there is a sound, photographic explanation for this and eagerly await how the creative explanatory geniuses at JPL will respond to your email if it all.

Correct me if i'm wrong, but do you feel these objects are part of the rover? I see terrain, the objects and sky behind them. What's connecting these things to the rover? Also, are they not positioned at the edge of the crater? Seems that way to me. In any case a "wtf" response is certainly expected for anyone doing a first round gloss over of these images.

JPL responding with a "we're not sure, we'll get back to you" email - now that's an observation worth chuckling over haha.

Mac said...

Pardon our silly little tangent, here, Mac.

Carry on!

Number 2 said...

"Correct me if i'm wrong, but do you feel these objects are part of the rover?"


Yes, as I indicated in my prior comment, they are, but only in the sense that the "three objects" appear to be mirrored reflections of parts of the rover. The hazy and distorted reflection of the solar array's beveled edge (the "object" in the middle of the reflection) is what makes it look like a rectangular object perched in the middle of the objects to the left and right of the middle rectangular "object," and are most likely, in turn, partial reflections of the rear left and right wheels of the rover.

Even so, the reflection orientation doesn't make sense. It seemed initially that, perhaps, some kind of shiny, reflective inner surface of what might be a shroud or slightly overhanging sun shield might have been mounted over the rear hazcam imaging CCD sensor, but that only makes sense if the reflection is being bounced upward first, and then showing on the inner surface of any such semi-reflective "sun shield" [or, which might suggest a movable, translucent (semi-reflective) shield]. I don't really know.

But that seems unlikely, also. It would help to be able to see a perspective photo of the rover itself, and how the rear hazcam was constructed, to determine if my speculation here, about how the rear edge of the rover is somehow reflected onto the inside edge of any such slightly overhanging "sun shield," but if you look carefully at the second photo down on your own blog, and blow up the image, you can see the patterns of "cloud-like" white surface soil, and the rover surface tracks, are all mirrored in the upper edge of the photo concerned.

So, bottom line, I'm convinced this is wholly prosaic, a reflection, even though I don't see how such a reflection was made, since I couldn't find any close-up pix on the net of the rear hazcam assembly itself, to see if some kind of shield is above this rear camera.

This was an interesting little lesson in how pareidolia, and a distorted series of seemingly "anomalous" objects in some poorly reproduced, edited, and uncommented photos can lead to, at least initially, mistaken impressions based on superficial appearances. Educational, that.

As for a JPL response, I don't expect any, nor is there any now needed. I think the problem has been figured out, even if not precisely, and the patterns in the reflection should tell us all that needs to be known. It was almost worth the time spent in figuring out his little puzzle. Almost.

AlphaNerd said...

Ok! Will pretty much accept your analysis of it until a more definitive expanation surfaces from JPL (if ever). I'm sure they've had other inquiries. Thanks, and sorry if i wasted your time over this.

Anonymous said...

I found other images with the same reflection. Really sorry i wasted everyones time here. Take care all.


number 2 said...


Where I said, "It was almost worth the time spent in figuring out [t]his little puzzle. Almost." I was not referring to you. My typo ("his" vs. what I meant to type, "this") may have suggested that, but was my oversight. Mea culpa. Let me explain:

This was only a kind of slightly embarrassed, self-referential comment, meaning that I, too, was intrigued by what you noted, and initially couldn't figure out what was shown in the photos concerned (even though I did note it was probably some mundane distortion of some kind, or misleading effect, which turned out to be the case, but just not in the way I first speculated).

I'm actually glad you made mention of the photos, as it was at first a bit mysterious to me, also, so please don't feel bad--you did not waste my time, at all. The investigatory process involved was actually, in the end, educational.

I guess I simply felt a tad silly, or chagrined over the fact that I spent a couple hours looking at related photos, pictures of the rover, etc., in the process, and it was only when I took a closer, enhanced look at the lower photo on your blog that it dawned on me what I was actually seeing.

In retrospect, I thought that I should have probably done that first, or picked up on the "objects" being a reflection more quickly than I did. It was a Homeric "D'oh!" moment for me, I have to admit. Live and learn, eh?

Anonymous said...

Hey, it's cool. There are things in life that throw us for a loop now and then. It's this damn expectation of finding a juicy image which slips JPL's oversight that keeps some of us hawking in keen anticipation. You guys are certainly an authority on this subject. Has it really become a big waste of time? I sense you guys have become a bit disgruntled on the subject.