Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs Across the Curriculum
Processes of Science: Mars, a Case Study #6016 Spirit Mars Rover in McMurdo Panorama
Date: October 5, 2006
Photographer: NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit
Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State University
This 360-degree view, called the “McMurdo” panorama, comes from the Panoramic Camera (Pancam) on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit. From April through October 2006, Spirit stayed on a small hill known as “Low Ridge.” There, the rover’s solar panels were tilted toward the sun to maintain enough solar power for Spirit to keep making scientific observations throughout the winter on southern Mars. This view of the surroundings from Spirit’s “Winter Haven” is presented in approximately true color.
The Pancam began shooting component images of this panorama during the 814th Martian day, or sol, of Spirit’s work on Mars (April 18, 2006) and completed the part shown here on Sol 980 (Oct. 5, 2006).
This beautiful scene reveals a tremendous amount of detail in Spirit’s surroundings. Many dark, porous-textured volcanic rocks can be seen around the rover, including many on Low Ridge. Two rocks to the right of center — brighter and smoother-looking in this image and more reflective in infrared observations by Spirit’s miniature thermal emission spectrometer — are thought to be meteorites. On the right, “Husband Hill” on the horizon, the rippled “El Dorado” sand dune field near the base of that hill, and lighter-toned “Home Plate” below the dunes provide context for Spirit’s travels from mid-2005 to early 2006.
Left of center, tracks and a trench dug by Spirit’s right-front wheel, which could no longer rotate, exposed bright underlying material. This bright material is evidence of sulfur-rich salty minerals in the subsurface, providing clues about the watery past of this part of Gusev Crater.
This is an approximately true-color, red-green-blue composite panorama generated from images taken through the Pancam’s 600-nanometer, 530-nanometer and 480-nanometer filters. Some image mosaic seams and brightness variations in the sky as well as several other small areas of color misalignments or other mismatch problems have been smoothed over in image processing in order to simulate the view that a human would see if he or she were standing here and looking around.
This “natural color” view is the rover team’s best estimate of what the scene would look like if we were there and able to see it with our own eyes. It is presented as a cylindrical projection.
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Supplementary: Essential Lens: Processes of Science - Mars, a Case Study
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Program 1 A Closer Look (video)
This introduction to the course models the process of analyzing photographs with teachers and students. Photography historian Makeda Best discusses the Focus In method with teachers, and educator Julie Keefe employs the method with students at a photography exhibit on "light and dark." Photography curator at the Portland Art Museum, Julia Dolan discusses how she carefully selects a set of photographs to tell a larger story.
Program 2 Witness (video)
Photographs bear witness to world events and help us to learn more about people, places, and situations -- historical and present day. Middle school teacher Donald Rose guides students in analyzing photos from school integration movements of the 1960s. Documentary film producer Ken Burns weaves photographs into historical narratives to bring the past to life. Photojournalist Louie Palu's photos take us deep into mines and war zones, and engage us with the individuals who take on those tasks.
Program 3 Lives (video)
Lives explores the story of human resilience and perseverance. Middle school teacher Donald Rose uses the Migrant Mother photos by Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange to help students understand what elements a photographer chooses to focus on to create the greatest impact. Historian Linda Gordon, biographer of FSA photographer Dorothea Lange reveals Lange's role in engaging Americans in the plight of those who were most devastated. New Orleans documentary photographers Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick talk about the transformation of their photographs after Hurricane Katrina and working with young photographers to preserve the city's cultural heritage.
video 4 Evidence (video)
An image can show us otherwise invisible processes, previously undiscovered life forms, and dramatic change over time. High school teacher Rima Givot engages her students with highly magnified photos of mouse muscle to study genetically modified organisms. Scientist and photomicrographer Dennis Kunkel demonstrates the fascinating process of creating photographs of the microscopic world. Environmental photographer Gary Braasch reports on his worldwide travels to document the state of the planet through repeat photography.
Program 5 Story (video)
Every photograph tells a story: of struggle, of beauty, of community and culture. Social studies teacher Kim Kanof uses photos from the Protests and Politics collection to teach about protests around in the world in 1968. National Geographic photo editor Pamela Chen details the collaborative process of creating photo-based feature stories with design director David Whitmore. Iowa photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier discusses his work documenting the residents and images of marginalized communities across the United States.