The Etherton Gallery is opening a new exhibit featuring images taken by the Phoenix Mars Lander and the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE. These two major Mars missions, run from the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, have discovered much about water on Mars.
The gallery will open the exhibit with a reception at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17, at the Temple Gallery at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 South Scott Ave., Tucson.
The HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter began taking high-resolution, detailed images of the spectacular Martian surface in November 2006. Each full image from HiRISE covers a strip of Martian ground 3.7 miles wide and about two to four times that long, showing details as small as one yard across.
HiRISE, led by UA professor Alfred McEwen, has returned more data about the planet than all other past and current missions to Mars combined.
One of HiRISE's significant contributions was to take images used to select a safe and scientifically promising landing site for the Phoenix Mars Mission.
The Phoenix spacecraft successfully landed in the Martian northern plains on May 25, 2008, and lasted two months beyond its planned three-months mission.
Led by Phoenix principal investigator Peter Smith, Phoenix returned more than 30,000 images. It took 29,799 images that provided panoramic views of the landing site and weather information with its Surface Stereo Imager. It took 2,322 images with its Robotic Arm Camera. Phoenix even took views down to the atomic level with the first atomic force microscope ever used beyond Earth.
Yisrael Spinoza, Web manager for the HiRISE team, and Maria Schuchardt of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory Space Imagery Center chose 13 images for the Etherton Gallery exhibit.
The prints on display range in size from 24 by 40 inches and 36 by 24 inches to three x six feet. The images were chosen to show a diversity of interesting landscapes and because "they are just plain gorgeous," Spinoza said.
"Our idea was to show two different Mars missions with very different goals but coming together in an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime shot of one spacecraft taking a picture of the other," he added.
HiRISE and Phoenix made history on May 25, 2008, just before the lander touched down. The HiRISE camera captured Phoenix hanging from its parachute during its descent through Mars' atmosphere. It was the first time – and still only time – that a spacecraft actually imaged the descent of another spacecraft onto a planetary body.
The Mars images exhibit runs through Oct. 13.