Head for the Hills!

Groovy rocks around Concepción crater
The chunky Chocolate Hills resting on the edge of Concepción crater

…or, in Opportunity’s case, away from the Hills. The “Chocolate Hills“, that is…a pair of rocks on the rim of the rover’s latest exploration target, Concepción crater. Opportunity has spent a couple of weeks investigating them and other rocks in another fascinating side trip on its journey across the Meridian Plains. It is now moving away from the blocky pair of rocks and around  the eastern edge of the crater.

Like Chocolate Hills, many of the rocks strewn around the edge of this shallow crater bear many interesting features…long grooved sides, sharp geometric edges, crusty coatings and tiny spherical stone “berries”. These are believed to be formed as a result of the area having been underwater at some point…yet another clue to Mars’ wetter past life.

The image above is a detail from a wonderful panorama (shown below) of the location assembled by Stuart Atkinson, of Cumbrian Sky fame, and posted recently on The Road to Endeavour, his site dedicated to Opportunity’s (aka “Oppy”) trek across the sand-blown dunes.

Panorama of Concepción crater rocks

Stuart uses raw image data from the rover to composite and color-calibrate the images to bring us along for the ride and experience Mars through Opportunity’s eyes. Check out his site for more great images and updates from the only mobile explorer currently operating on Mars. (Sorry Spirit, we still love ya!) Great work, Stu!

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Stuart Atkinson