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Tools of Science

Measuring Mars

One of the most argued elements of the Martian landscape  by both serious researchers and so-called 'anomaly hunters,' regards size and distance.   Tools made available via the MSL Curiosity Analyst's Notebook are being put to good use here, providing definitive measurements of both height and distance.   


How We Do It

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Making the measurements is possible thanks to the hard work already done at NASA's PDS Geosciences site, The MSL Analyst's Notebook.

First, you should understand that the rovers have front and rear navigational and hazard cameras.   We call them NavCams and HazCams.  These cameras are in pairs and take simultaneous L and R matching stereo pictures.  The rover's movements are then calculated using the image pairs, via the 3D Cartesian coordinate system.  The X, Y and Z axes (pronounced ax-eez) provide what is needed for width, height and depth.  

The MSL Notebook has NavCam and HazCam images already paired and associated.  Distance measurements are fairly simple to make, and you can do so by using either the Left or RIght image of the set.  Measurements are in meters.



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Height/Elevation change is a bit more tricky.  To do this, you must use the profile tool and create a profile measurement.

Use the created graph to determine the difference in elevation within site frame.



The measurements are as accurate as you make them.  In this image, the width of the rover track is measured at 0.50 meters, or 19.7 inches.   Not a bad measurement as the wheels of the rover Curiosity are given to be 20 inches.  


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Mastcam imagery is not synced and therefore cannot be mapped for taking measurements; however, by taking the time to search and investigate these areas a lot can be accomplished.   Once we find and measure an object or objects in a Nav or Hazcam image, we locate that same object or objects in mastcam imagery.   I created a calibrated fixture of my wife, Martian Missy, that I can then adjust to match the known dimensions of an object.

So, when you see her insterted into one of our videos or images, including the 3D images, you can know that it wasn't just an arbitrary placement.   Precision may not be 100% to the millimeter, but it's close enough for our purposes.   We are simply trying to provide a close reference.

One can become unpopular when informing people than an object widely surmised to be very large is only 14 inches long and 4.5 inches tall.  But this must be done in order to dispel the myths and discover the truth.  



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