Kodiak Dawn

Contributed by Jim Bell

One of the main reasons we sent Perseverance to Jezero crater was to be able to explore the spectacular river delta that splays out across the landscape on the crater’s western floor. That delta is heavily eroded and appears to have been much larger earlier in Mars history. Indeed, a number of people on the rover team have speculated that several mesas and hills that are quite far from the main delta might be remnants — leftovers that haven’t fully eroded away yet — of those much larger original delta deposits.

One such remnant, seen in this Mastcam-Z enhanced color photo mosaic from sol 63, is informally dubbed “Kodiak” by the rover team. Kodiak is located a few kilometers due west of the rover’s landing site, and it has been notoriously hard to photograph well. This is because most of our most favorable imaging opportunities come in the afternoon when the need for heating is minimized and after other high-priority daily engineering activities are completed. This means that when we look west toward Kodiak in the afternoon we’re looking into the Sun. This washes out the contrast in the photos and hides many of Kodiak’s geologic features in the shadows. 

Finally, though, in late April, we were able to negotiate some early morning imaging time with the rover engineers. We knew that if the Sun was low in the east the lighting would be optimal for photographing Kodiak in the west. On sol 63, then, Perseverance and Mastcam-Z woke up early — around 8:15 a.m. local time — and took this great shot of this beautifully illuminated mesa.  We took the photo using our “RGB” filters (called filter L0 and R0), but I decided to enhance or exaggerate the colors to bring out more subtle color detail. So while this is a “false color” view unlike what we would see with our own eyes if we were there, to me it is just artistically stunning. Kodiak in the early morning sunlight is much redder than both the blueish rocky plains in the foreground and the dusty, ruddy walls of the crater rim in the background. The colors and geology of Kodiak as revealed so far by Mastcam-Z and other remote sensing measurements from Perseverance support the idea that this might indeed be an ancient remnant of a once-larger delta… I hope we get the chance to drive over there and find out!

This Mastcam-Z image is a mosaic taken on April 24, 2021 (mission sol 63) generated from both the left and right RGB filters at a focal length of 110 mm. Rather than using the left and right filters to create a stereo view, the views from the left and right cameras that *don’t* overlap were merged here to expand the total field of view covered. Kodiak is far enough away that the parallax difference between the left and right eye views is not particularly problematic for this mosaic.

Click here to download the Featured Image JPEG file directly.

April 24, 2021

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