Exploration of Gale Crater

Boo! BOOO!!

Well, it looks like the plan is not to reveal the technical details of color image science data.

The MSL Raw image descriptions do not reveal which filters the Mastcam used to take the image and the information is NOT in the filename AND not in the JPG file header.

The MSSS-Malin created file names are sol+camera+sequence number+"I1_DXXX", eg, 0003MR0000022000I1_DXXX, which is useless for technical work.

I just spent the morning with a hex editor looking at the first Raw Images for the sundial as seen through the various filters and they were identical up to byte 2A0 - the start of the image.

I will not be doing any processing of Curiosity raw images.

I was of the understanding that the Bayer type fixed color process was unalterable in the camera, and the color balance was fixed until we receive the images. Frankly, my old laptop gives the 'raw' page with no images at sol 6, so, I am building a desktop to allow for certainty of speed and capacity.
Are the cameras working with adjustable filtering, despite the Bayer mechanism, contrary to what I had read before the landing?

There is a 8 slot filter wheel in front of each Mastcam.

Here is the "raw" result for both:

sol 3 mastcam-100:

sol 3 mastcam-34:

I have no idea ( well, a little idea ) which filter is used with each image.

As for the "color balance"...

It is just one more program between the CCD output and the computer screen.

Unless you believe that MSL is green the "true color" in the thumbnails is wrong.

See details about the mascam filters in MSL Science Instruments.

This first sundial color target image is compromised by the sunlight 'glaring' off the color chips but making that sundial look reasonable would be the first step in color balancing the view. Later such views with the Sun behind our view will be better for comparing the surface with the color chips of known color.



There's so much to see. So much relief! The dark areas along the foot of Aeolis Mons (aka Mt Sharp) are intriguing in the orbital views. I'm thrilled to already be looking down on them from a vantage on the surface. I wonder how high are those cliffs on the other side of the basin? Its interesting to see for the first time big relief on Mars that isn't related to impact cratering. Some erosion process has dug that hole in the floor of the crater, and quite possibly dug out the whole 5km depth of Gale Crater before that.

Gale Crater is " a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma!". (Anyone remember where that quote comes from?) Here's a big paper with no pay wall that reviews many earlier ideas and organizes a lot of new info, especially from the HiRise Camera:


I'll probably spend a lot more time with this source, but I've been through it briefly once. My conclusion so far, and I think these authors might agree: No single plausible history emerges from what we know at this time and all explanations seem at best kind of a stretch.

The presence of the mound, Aeolis Mons is most easily explained if the entire crater was filled and then partially exhumed leaving the mound in place. (Why the mound?) The many indications of fluvial activity on the crater walls must have taken place when the crater was not filled, which if the water flowed during an early period in Mars history, it must have happened before the crater was filled, not after it was emptied and all the channels we see today have been unburied.

There's lots of interest in how the crater was filled, but HOW WAS IT EMPTIED? These authors see the removal of material in atmospheric suspension as the best available explanation.

Looking at this full res(?) color subframe I think the color balance of the mastcam raw color images is quite ok and to be trusted for further exploratory work:

Is NOT OK - unless you believe the rover deck is painted green:

The area inside the polyhedron has an average RGB value of 184, 196, 173 ( +/- 2 ) - which when placed next to a "real" gray looks - green.

The white balance "presets" in even the best cameras are just guesses. Without a reference gray scale imaged in the same scene the "raw" colors are "artistic interferences".

The quote "Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" is from Winston - Winston Churchhill.

Horton at least it is a fixed standard (raw) color model without the need to mix certain filter grey-scale at will, taste or technique. From what i read over the last days Mr. Malin also offers a standard white balancing for Earth like illumination. We will see how that turns out and will be accepted.
But i see no green rover deck in the linked subframe - only the green reference spot of the sundial!?

You're right Horton, it was Winston Churchill, which I didn't know. I remembered Joe Pesci's character in the movie JFK using that line in a paranoid rant referring to the Kennedy assassination. I even managed to look it up without finding the original Churchill quote.

The exhumation of Gale, assuming it was completely filled, and took 3 billion years to empty, would require an average erosion rate of only 1.7 microns per year.

A close EDFC pan:

There, in fact, seem to be very few very round rocks. So - not a place with lots of running water.

More desert pavement than dried shore. Bummer.

The actions leading to the Lowlands, faulting and mars-quakes could take a few feet to 20-30 feet at each occurrence as in Anchorage, AK, US. If the underlying ground was with frozen liquids, a large alteration of elevation might occur. The effects of sulphur chemistry would cause substantial ground subsidence or shifting/consolidation. I am sure Serpens or Ben, or Bob Clark, any of the contributors with mineralogy background, could describe a non-atmospheric transition of chemistry allowing a reduction in altitude/elevation. It looks to me that the lander nozzles have shown a compacted loose combination with semi-fluid shaped larger exposures thus far.
Tectonic subsidence and the saw tooth appearance of the Eastern rim blocks may give some support for subsidence potential.

Just a suggestion of early actions not directly related to water, wind and dunes.

Kye, your linked paper, does it offer support for Dichotomy actions as well as wind? I'll have to give it a read as part of the basic background.

sol 0003 corrected color Gale crater rim:

I don't plan on doing many of these - but I thought some might enjoy at least one hack at the first Curiosity color by Horticolor® pan.

Here's the thing. If you want to get a flawless panorama:

FIRST, you mount the camera on a rock steady leveled tripod with the camera pivoting around the lens pivot point. Let's check...
Nope. ( MSL camera mount is not a panoramic head. )

Second, You set the camera to manual and set the exposure for the entire panarama. Auto-exposure is verboten. Let's check...
Nope. ( It is evident from the individual frames that auto-exposure was used.)

Shoot a grey card with pans central subject area. Let's check...
Almost. ( But the grey card is not well placed. )

Apply a vignette and other lens corrections to each frame. Let's check...
Nope. ( faint dark lines marking the edges of individual frames are evident in the pan. )

Use a super-duper stitching program that supports whatever projection you choose. Let's check...
Yep. ( I used auto-stitch. GOK what program Nasa used. )

Post process the panorama with color and exposure balancing. Let's check...
Yep. I did.

There. ( That wasn't easy - was it? )


...agree with your 30 statement.


The 'layer' technique improves viewing considerably, dx.
In assessing the first few sol images as non-instrument visual displays, I found this reduced size large scale view of the landing position with flows across the rover location, dominating faulting, and serial pit subsidence, as a valuable background for identifying the character of the shards and the unusual appearing convoluted patterned rocks.
In my self-correction of reply #7, I omitted details of reply #3 such as mention of the dark lines passing across the upper portion of the initial thumbnail images suggested as possibly rover associated. The topographic landscape change closer to the Mount Sharp peaks was the actual source of the fish-eye lens curved dark lines.
The later images are becoming improved, and smaller nearby rocks are now showing patterns and convolutions of unusual shapes in a few samples.
Few large scale images of the landing site showing the geographic position are available in small file size. This is an altered reduced frame view of the rover at the lower right of center, with flows across the site, and faulting with channels leading from the Mount Sharp peaks to the MSL/Curiosity site. Rover position marked as a white box.


Hardware_longview , original image a TIF.
The original was about 550MB. This is 515KB, a PNG. This is not map oriented, but is close to correct. North is 'UP'. Some alteration.

Is the sol 3 nearby rock an intrigue, or, common to the geology? A loose rock, or an exposure of an injection or thick layer in place?

Malin Mastcam image crop section.
Enlarged 2X and altered some. Vacuousness in the folded and overlain patterns seen as smooth fluid shaped layering. Much of the rock is now missing.

Dana Johnson>>>

Seen that rock and others you show in your 34, but I am not a geologist, astrobiologist nor marine biologist. I look at the varying shapes and sizes of rocks from Opportunity, Spirit and Curiosity etc, and if there is nothing exposed on its face- ie; a 'FOSSIL' that any Earth scientist can instantly recognize and identify without fault, then to me its just another rock, no matter how interesting its material or mineral content. I don't speculate-unless I'm at the Casino. Obviously they would be interesting rocks to geologists. Until ANY evidence of 'FOSSIL' is or are discovered, I will continue along this line of thought.

However, there have been countless 'resemblances' of screw shells, crinoids, frawns and perhaps trilobites and other early [Earthly] crustaceans, but absolutely NOTHING scientifically has been proven to be the case for these little creatures. Even I am guilty of suggesting a MRB posted 'screw shell casing' several months ago-only to go nowhere with it.


Dana Johnson>>>

One more thing Dana. Curiosity has shown us nothing more than a very nice gravel bed of red dust and scattered rocks on a reasonably flat surface, not too different than a reshaped quarry for a suburban housing tract. Nice hills in the background though, I must admit. I miss the surrounding trees, lakes or ponds, air and other vegetation-but we know scientifically absolutely NOTHING can grow on Mars.


Well, dx, simulations of the Mars pressure and humidity have shown the capacity of living items to enter a 'stasis' state, or slowly decline over many weeks and yet be revived when returned to Earth normal conditions. And those were all evolutionarily bred in a cozy wet dense incubator we call Earth. No argument that routine Earth photosynthetic plants cannot survive there. Nothing makes the change as is in surviving condition over the long term.
My interest in the rock and the new soil type is based upon extended presumptions about the new crater terrain and history.
The low resolution initial images show us caked soil around broken loose rock debris from the Sky Crane rocket blasts, and that soil is differing slightly from the solid appearing vacuous, layered rock.
I inserted the 2X rock image onto the closest view we have of the hollow blasted into the soil and breccia mix. Size scale between the cameras is not accurate.
I believe both these are different than we have seen on Mars in prior missions.
Is the soil consolidating? What cause? The large scale reference image shows local flows across this site still visible despite any wind erosion, so what was the flow material? What type of soil?

Original image was sol 3, mastcam left camera, as noted on image.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems


Taken from the graphics of the 3d virtual Gale crater terrain in 'Explore Mars' and the UNITY player software on the NASA JPL site covering the rover Curiosity mission, The terrain is essentially correct but all graphic text is misplaced and should be disregarded.
This scene is oriented from the landing zone on the north side of the crater. The landing site marker is nearly correct. All other text is not correct due to my change of angle and viewpoint.
We are looking from the East, slightly east of the Mount Sharp apex, and the upper frame edge is the far west of Gale crater with the multi-parted channel/scarp the primary geological feature of the landing and rover traverse planned path.
The extended near end of the faulted scarp shows a series of crater pits. This looks much like view down the length of the San Andreas fault-line in areas where the geology shows the effects of water assisted terrain erosion. The offsets of the scarp to the left and right are rather obvious.
It appears similar to the actions of larger scale in the Valles Marineris channels.
Is this tensional extension and not caused by the crater formation process?


Is anyone versed on the chemcam check-out process? Sol 10 gives an additional 20 images, and alteration of this one shows possible liquid or solid adhesive droplets on the casing.
Is this actually a liquid introduced to the chamber and then watched?
These early images are without a powered light source, leaving us with the multiple grey scale tone lines across the image upon alteration.


I have included the original on the left side of the paired images. Is this actually a liquid series of droplets?