Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holidays

Here's a view from Opportunity looking southwest over "Bottomless Bay"


Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Red Planet's Watery... Present

And the big science news is the discovery of apparant water-related activity on the surface of Mars taking place within the last few years, which in geologic terms effectively means it's taking place now. This really is a startling discovery, one which was perhaps hoped for but which I'm not sure anyone seriously expected.

"The Red Planet's Watery Past"

Scientific American article by Jim Bell - an compelling summary of the current thinking about the Red Planet.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Version 1.5.2

Midnight Mars Browser version 1.5.2 fixes two Sol 1000 bugs.

A "Sol 1000" or "S1K" bug is a glitch in a program where the program author figured that three digits ought to be plenty to hold the rover sol number, because surely the rovers couldn't survive for over 999 sols (Martian days). Today is Spirit's 1010th Martian day since she arrived on the Red Planet on January 3, 2004.

Download the latest version of Midnight Mars Browser

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day was projected using MMB. Other contributors doctored the image and added the color.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

On the Edge


Arrival at "Cabo Verde"


This is the location where Opportunity will be spending superior conjunction (when the Sun is between Mars and the Earth).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Version 1.5.1

Version 1.5.1 of the Midnight Mars Browser software fixes the Export Pan feature to support Hugin, as an alternative to PTGui. The pan export Navcam FOV is also adjusted slightly.

Download the latest version of Midnight Mars Browser

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

All The Way to "Duck Bay"

More Pancams came down:


"Duck Bay" Pancams

About 25-50 meters from the edge now...


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Victoria in View II

200x80 degree cylindrical projection from Opportunity Sol 934:


Victoria in View


We haven't arrived at the rim yet, but Victoria Crater is now, for the first time, plainly in view. I have to eat my earlier words about what we were seeing, apparantly.

The next couple weeks should be very interesting, as they say...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Version 1.5.0

Version 1.5.0 of the Midnight Mars Browser software is now posted on the download page. The major addition to this version is support for PTGui (a software package for stitching panoramas on Windows). The "Export Pan Images and PTGui Project File..." menu option (under File->Advanced), formerly the "Export Pan Images..." option, now outputs a PTGui project file as well as the images from the panorama. I use this feature and PTGui to generate most of the images posted on Marscat's Flickr page now. PTGui can stitch panoramas in equirectangular, cylindrical or rectilinear projection. Note that subframe rover images are not supported at this time and are not added to the PTGui project file (although the images themselves are still exported).

Also, the "##" vs. "__" duplicate image problem has been addressed. Images have "##" in the filename when the rover motion counter exceeds its maximum displayable value (until it is reset for the next 'site'). Unfortunately the JPL raw images site changes these "##" characters to "__" for somewhat mysterious reasons, resulting in MMB downloading duplicate images with slightly different filenames. Version 1.5.0 changes "__" files to "##" files when downloading. Also, if you rebuild image indexes, "__" files will not be indexed, so these duplicates will not appear in Slideshow (although they will not be deleted off your hard drive if they are already there).

There are also some fixes for image indexing, including an unpleasant error that could occur if you had extraneous images in the MMB image directories.

And finally, as usual, there are probably a bunch of little things that have been fixed that I haven't kept proper track of.

Download the latest version of Midnight Mars Browser

Still Emma Dean

Opportunity's visit to "Emma Dean" is stretching on a bit, for reasons that aren't entirely clear... At least the rover appears to be healthy and finally doing something. Perhaps this coming week we will see some real movement. In the meantime, here's a cylindrical projection of "Emma Dean" done using MMB and PTGui:


Monday, September 11, 2006

"Emma Dean"

Well, while we're waiting for our close-up with Victoria, here's part of "Emma Dean". False-color, obviously.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006



Victoria Crater is now plainly in sight on the horizon - indeed we are only about 100 meters from its nearest edge. The interesting thing, though, is that there is still a lot of debate about what we are seeing, at least in the rover-watching community. Consensus, for the moment, seems to have formed around the - incorrect, I would say - opinion that we are not truly seeing the inside of the far rim yet, but instead are seeing the plains beyond the crater. I would disagree, but things should become clearer when we finally pull up to the rim in the next few days... we hope. Then again, things might not become clearer. So far, Victoria has proven amazingly enigmatic even at close range.

The view above is a 200 degree by 90 degree equirectangular projection of combined Navcam and Pancam images from Opportunity Sol 929. The minor crater in the foreground is "Emma Dean".

Edit: I guess I'm coming around to the opinion that we are seeing the plains beyond Victoria, as well as part of the inside rim. That would mean that the large hill-like feature on the horizon is probably huge and far away. But wow, it sure is hard to tell, even from where we are, less than 100m from the near rim.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"Everest" Pan

Added Spirit's "Everest" pan to the VR Experiment.

VR Screenshots

Here are a few screenshots from the MER VR Experiment using FSPViewer.



Screenshot 3

I also added three positions after El Dorado.

Monday, August 21, 2006

VR Update - Spirit


Added Spirit's "Seminole", "Comanche" and "El Dorado" pans to the VR Project.

VR Erebus Pan

Added the Erebus Pan (Opportunity Sol 651-707) to the VR project.

VR Update

Fixed the link to the Sol 285-295 (Burns Cliff) pan.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

MER VR Project

A fun little project to create a MER VR is here.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

PDS Release 9

A new PDS release means new radiometrically calibrated color images by Daniel Crotty, and this is a particularly good batch. I'll post some of the products from MMB using these images as I tinker with them.


"El Dorado":

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Beagle Crater - At Last


A view of "Beagle Crater". Quicktime VR version on the Opportunity page.

Friday, July 28, 2006

More Quicktime VRs

A couple more VRs here: Opportunity Quicktime VRs

The thing that's unfortunate is that I can't really do justice to the Pancam images in these VRs, because Java 3D isn't allowing me to exceed a certain size when I capture the images that make up the VRs. So the Pancam images in these come out maybe a third of the resolution they should be, if that. It's frustrating - otherwise it would be a neat little system.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Quicktime VR Experiments

I've been experimenting with Quicktime VR, and finally figured out an amazing simple way to create Quicktime VR movies from MMB panoramas. Here is an example:

Edit: instead, go to the new page I set up.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Opportunity Sol 884


Pancam drive-direction mosaic of Beagle Crater, Opportunity Sol 884.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bad Night for the Internets

Looks like dotMac HomePage is down, and also Flickr is down. No screenshots until Flickr is back up, and, more painfully, no metadata updates until dotMac is back up.

Update: Looks like both are fixed now.

Opportunity Sol 883

Since Flickr seems to have chosen this moment to have a major system crash, I'll try putting this new images on Blogger.

Oh... it automatically sizes down the images. I guess that's why I don't use Blogger to host these.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Movie: Opportunity's Voyage South from Erebus


Linked below is a movie of Opportunity's journey south from Erebus Crater so far, from Sol 758 to Sol 878. It is made up of 61 MMB Navcam panorama views, simulating a view from "above," facing South, as Opportunity travels torward Victoria Crater. The movie is in Quicktime format, 7.2Mb large. You may want to right-click and save it and play it in Quicktime Player, as the controls may be off the bottom of the screen if you are viewing it in a web browser on a 1024x768 resolution monitor.

Opportunity's Journey South from Erebus

I might go back later and improve the anti-vignetting on some of the panoramas, but you get the idea.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Sol 871 Pancam Mosaic


There is a nice little crater visible about half to two-thirds the way to the right in this mosaic. If you have the red-blue glasses, it's more easily distinguishable in the anaglyph version.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Sand Castle


Looks like a bit of a barrier? Will be interesting to see which way they go. The mottled/hexagonal pattern on the soil to the south is interesting.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Boundary in Sight


An Autostitched mosaic from Opportunity Sol 870, Pancam L2. At left is Beagle Crater. The boundary between the sea of drifts and the "apron" around Victoria Crater is clearly delineated and stretches to the right.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Getting Really Close to Beagle Crater


Almost there... Beagle crater is actually off to the left in this false-color image. It looks like we'll be checking out the strange debris field (or whatever it is) to the west of Beagle before we see the crater itself. The interest level should increase from here ... soon we should also get some idea of what is waiting for us *beyond* Beagle, like what the 'apron' around Victoria is going to be like for driving. As Steve Squyres pointed out recently, we really don't know... We are approaching unfamiliar terrain, which is what makes this so exciting.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Friday, June 30, 2006

Getting Closer to "Beagle Crater"


Some tantalizing details of Victoria Crater are becoming visible on the horizon, as well...

Mini-Purgatory Tracks


Opportunity's view of her tracks from back on Sol 842-843, in false-color.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Marscat's Blog

Marscat now has a public weblog: Marscat's weblog. This is just personal stuff and interesting (to me) links, no Mars stuff per se. For those interested; caveat emptor etc.

Getting Closer to "Beagle Crater"


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Version 1.4.8

Finally had time to put together a new version of the software. This probably won't happen again for some time.

Version 1.4.8 fixes the download from JPL, which was broken due to some kind of site change on their end. There also is a new checkbox to choose whether to scale up images to fill the screen in the Slideshow.

Download the latest version of Midnight Mars Browser

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Postcards from Mars

Looking forward to this book, coming in November apparantly:

Postcards from Mars

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Back from Vacation

Check out Marscat's Vacation Photos. Be sure to go through in order and read the captions.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

No Metadata Updates May 28-June 5

I will be away and computerless from May 28 through June 5, so there will be no metadata updates during that time. Everything will be updated when I get back.

The MMB metadata is what allows MMB to show panoramas out of the raw images, and adjust the image brightnesses.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Opportunity Sol 823-824

Taking a very short break from work:


I had bet that Oppy would reach Victoria on Sol 820. Guess I missed by a bit...

Auto-update from JPL

In case you're wondering: Yes, I'm aware that the auto-update from JPL is no longer working. They changed something on the site. I haven't had a chance to update MMB to work around the problem yet, but will eventually... or sooner, if Exploratorium stops working again. Fortunately for now, Exploratorium is chugging happily along releasing images.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Big Burns Cliff Panorama


The above panorama was made using both Daniel Crotty's callibrated color images and Navcam images, combined in MMB and projected finally using Autostitch. Many versions of the Burns Cliff mosaic have been produced but to my knowledge this one is unique in combining Pancam and Navcam images - at least I don't remember NASA releasing one like this. (Ed: I'm sure they have one; they probably just didn't release it.)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Back to Burns Cliff


Here are some views from way back at Burns Cliff (Opportunity Sol 285-295) combining Daniel Crotty's callibrated color images with Navcam context images.

Currently with Opportunity (Sol 809), Victoria Crater is just about in sight on the horizon, although still a long way away.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Version 1.4.7

Midnight Mars Browser version 1.4.7 is up. This version fixes image generation so that generated images that become unused are cleaned up. Images can become unused when a better filter sequence becomes available or when the image generation preferences are changed. This version also includes other miscellaneous fixes.

Download the latest version

PDS 8 Metadata Update


Daniel Crotty's callibrated color images have been updated for Sol 541 through 630, to correspond with the latest PDS release. Above is a view of Opportunity on Sol 569-670 using the callibrated color images in MMB; there are a bunch of other images at the flickr page.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Opportunity's Drive South

My Flickr movie of Opportunity's drive south toward Victoria has been updated up to Sol 796 (the sol before yestersol).

Here's a view of sunset on Sol 795, against a backrgound taken earlier in the day:


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Spirit at "Low Ridge Haven"


I've updated the brightness-adjustment metadata for several recent sols.

Spirit has arrived at "Low Ridge Haven," where she will probably now spend the winter in order to keep her solar panels tilted toward the sun.

I hope she still moves around a bit during this time, if only because MMB panoramas are organized by location, and staying for too long in one place could cause problems I'll need to address in the software. But there seem to be several tasty science targets around here, so perhaps there are some attainable short-range goals for the rover to keep her moving, if only slightly.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Flickr Slideshows


Here is a Flickr Slideshow of the turn that Spirit is currently executing. This is the first time I've tried a Flickr slideshow; it's kind of neat but I wish there was a way to view both the individual pictures and the slideshow as a whole at a larger size more easily. I also wish there was a "Blog Slideshow" button in Flickr.

I'm not sure why Spirit is turning; I thought she was stuck and just thrashing around at first.

Update: here is a movie of Opportunity's trip South from Erebus, in progress.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Version 1.4.6

Midnight Mars Browser version 1.4.6 fixes a couple bugs and makes a change to the de-vignetting feature introduced in the previous version.

Download the latest version of Midnight Mars Browser

Monday, March 13, 2006

The "Multiple Instance" Warning

A couple people have asked about this already, so I better mention it: If you are getting a warning message when MMB starts up, you probably don't need to worry about it. A version or two ago I added this warning message to try to make sure people don't run multiple "instances" of MMB at the same time. Unfortunately it doesn't work very well, and the warning message doesn't explain things very well. So if you get that message, and MMB isn't already running, just continue and press "Yes". I will at least clarify the language in the warning message next time around.

(If you want to know the technical details, MMB is creating a file to track when it is running, and this file isn't getting cleaned up when MMB is shut down in some cases. It's not a very good system to begin with, but I don't know another way to do it at the moment. Perhaps some Java expert out there can enlighten me.)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Clouds at Erebus

Too neat not to post:


You might see the cloud pictures elsewhere, but now you know where they fit into the local scenery. The view is facing directly South at Opportunity's current position.


Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has safely entered orbit. Fantastic news.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Version 1.4.5 (the de-vignetting version)

Midnight Mars Browser version 1.4.5 has been posted. This version adds support for de-vignetting images displayed in Panorama mode. I've been posting images made using this feature on the Flickr page for several days now, such as this one:


The feature is not perfect, but it helps to smooth out the joins between images.

Some notes about this feature:

  • The brightness and devignetting adjustments are not automatic, the parameters have to be set manually. Usually I make those adjustments to a panorama add them to the metadata, so that the program picks up the adjustments automatically. Panoramas that have not had brightness/devignetting adjustments added will appear as normal even when you check "Adjust raw image brightness" in the Panorama dialog.
  • The "Adjust raw image brightness" checkbox in the Panorama dialog turns both brightness and devignettign adjustment on or off.
  • Brightness/devignetting adjustments are made "on the fly" as the images are loaded; the raw images stored on disk are not modified. The raw images stored on disk always remain exactly as downloaded from JPL or Exploratorium.
  • Currently, generated images have brightness and devignetting adjustments made at the time they are generated. You will sometimes see images being regenerated automatically during an update when the brightness/devignetting metadata has been updated.
  • It is possible to play with the brightness/devignetting parameters of images yourself, but I'll have to document how that's done later.
  • Added a "Export Pan Images..." menu option under File->Advanced. This allows you to export the images displayed in a MMB panorama to a directory, so that they can easily be imported into an external program, such as Autostitch. Hidden images are not exported. Currently the export option does ignores which images are selected and exports all images which are visible (I may fix this in the future).

As another example, here is the same view with brightness adjustment and de-vignetting turned on and off:



Download the latest version of Midnight Mars Browser

Friday, February 24, 2006

Opportunity Sol 742 - "Payson" In View


Good news: Exploratorium appears to be working again, at least for the moment, so we get to see the up-to-the-minute latest Mars Rover images again. Such as the above.

Other news: I think I'm going to just post images to the Flickr site for awhile, to save myself some time.

Other good news: Midnight Mars Browser 1.4.4 is posted; see below.

Version 1.4.4

Midnight Mars Browser version 1.4.4 has been posted. Here's what's new:

  • In Panorama mode, the new "Edit -> Select Command Sequence Images" menu option selects the closest image to center and all other images in the panorama with the same command sequence code. Once an image or images are selected, they can be hid using the new "Navigate -> Hide Selected Images" menu option (to reveal any images behind). All images can be shown again using the "Navigate -> Show All Images" menu option.
  • Improved image quality in Panorama mode at certain magnifications (smoother scaling, fewer "jaggies").
  • Added an "Update Panorama Images from JPL" menu option to the Update menu.
  • Fixed Panorama selection dialog to show pans in order by sol (since site/drive code isn't completely reliable).
  • Panorama screenshots show view azimuth, elevation and field of view at bottom.
  • Miscellaneous other fixes.

Download the latest version of Midnight Mars Browser

Opportunity Sol 741 - Opportunity Drives


Opportunity's first significant drive in ... what? Weeks, months. Very good news. Let's hope there's still lots of life in the old girl; there's much left to see.

The rest of the Pancams should give us the best view yet of "Mogollon Rim," once they've come in.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Spirit Sol 746-751 False-Color Updated


Adjusted the false-color for the Gibson pan frames.