On Mars, something as simple as a shadow feels profound.
I love sweet Mars rover selfies, those lavish images our robotic explorers send back showing the vehicles triumphantly chilling on the surface of the red planet. But there's something haunting about the stark simplicity of a selfie that shows a shadow. NASA's Perseverance rover just took some new ones.
The rover's raw images are available for the public to peruse. That's where I found the series of compelling shadow images. I picked out my favorite. It shows part of the rover's body and the mast where its "head" is located. The wheeled explorer left behind some wheel tracks in the Martian soil.
I'm enamored with the image for how it shows the rover's progress across the landscape as it explores an intriguing ancient river delta area in the Jezero Crater. It reminds me of moments on Earth when I'm standing with the sun at my back, looking at the shadow form of myself stretching across the ground.
Percy snapped the view on Aug. 30 using the left navigation camera located on its mast. The camera is one of a pair that scopes out the landscape and helps the rover stay safe while traversing the rocky and sandy surface. The rover is able to use an autonomous navigation mode that lets it makes it own decisions about how to proceed.
The original raw image came down in black and white, so I did some light processing to bring out the surface features, tracks and to add a little color.
This is one of those moments when I like to let a sense of awe wash over me. We're far away from sending humans to Mars, but our emissaries are already there, working to understand the planet and its history of water and the driving question of whether it ever hosted microbial life. I see all of that contained within a shadow.