VMC went pro and goes great

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In a past fortnight, a VMC camera on Mars Express has delivered some of a best images ever, display a Martian aspect in glorious detail, colour and contrast.

If you’€™re a VMCer (and, if you’re reading this, we are!) and you’€™ve been following a live (well, as live as possible) visit updates in Twitter, you’€™ve been treated to some glorious images of a north frigid ice cap, Valles Marineris, a Tharsis Montes segment and some of a craters where rovers rove.


Many of a images in Aug and Sep so distant were acquired from an altitude above a aspect of usually 3000-5000 km, giving even a trifling VMC webcam a possibility to use a elementary optics to get a good “€˜close-up”€™ perspective of what’€™s flitting by below.

In fact, these are some of a closest-ever images that VMC has been means to grab, and were acquired approximately half-way between periares and apoares -€“ a closest and farthest points to a aspect in a rarely elliptical MEX orbit.

And they contrariety (nicely!) with a standard VMC images we’€™ve been used to saying for a past near-decade, that were all taken during or really tighten to apoares during about 10 000km.

Why a good pics?

Simon Wood, booster operations operative on a Mars Express group here during ESOC in Darmstadt, says that a tasty tighten ups are now probable since VMC has ‘gone pro’.

He points to a large news final year when VMC was promoted to a standing of a pro scholarship instrument. Its images are now being complicated -€“ and new program is being grown -€“ by a Planetary Sciences Group of a University of a Basque Country, Spain.

The graduation to adulthood meant that watching time (and, hence, booster pointings) for VMC can be automatic into a altogether goal scholarship timeline, in coordination with indicating slots for a rest of a instruments, that is a aloft priority than when a camera was being used usually for outreach, preparation and PR.

Formerly, VMC regard slots could usually be automatic on a despotic non-interference basement with a spacecraft’€™s “€˜real”€™ scholarship instruments, with a outcome that VMC usually got to look during Mars from high above, during apoares, a top indicate in MEX’€™s orbit, that few or nothing of a other instrument teams ever requested as many of their observations need a booster to be tighten to a planet.

So, behind to a question: since a new array of good tighten ups?

“€œTo capacitate it to be used as a systematic instrument, it is required to know how a colours, liughtness and shadows on VMC images review adult to reality,”€ says Simon.

“In general, instruments need to frequently collect information for calibration since they change with time. In a particular, in a box of VMC, these information were never collected in a initial place, as it “€˜wasn’™t an instrument”™. “€

“€œThe low-altitude images are being acquired to obtain what we call prosaic fields – to scold a pixel response variability.”

“€œSo as partial of this process, in Aug and September, we are holding a array of images during reduce altitudes where we have good information from other instruments to that we can review and scold VMC images. This will assistance regulate a outlay from VMC in future.”

In a meantime, for a rest of we VMCers, it’s a possibility to suffer some superb shots of a second-favourite planet, as updates are auto-tweeted and all images auto-posted into a dedicated Flickr site.

Source: ESA Rocket Science blog

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