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NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: Southern Cross (Constellation Crux) Star Calibration Image

Status Report From: NASAJPL/MSSS
Posted: Wednesday, December 28, 2005

NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Context Camera
Southern Cross (Constellation Crux) Star Calibration Image
MRO CTX Release No. CTX-00003, 27 December 2005

CTX calibration image showing the constellation, Crux.

NASA/JPL/MSSS

Imaging stars while a Mars-bound spacecraft is in its cruise phase provides a good way to verify that a camera is in good focus, following the rigors of the launch from Florida. It also allows measurement of the camera's alignment relative to the other instruments on the spacecraft.

On 14 December 2005, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) slewed across the southern contellation Crux (popularly known as the Southern Cross) and the Context Imager (CTX) took an image. With its 5.7° wide field, CTX was able to cover the entire grouping of stars. Each line of the image was exposed for 22.9 milliseconds, and the whole image took a little under 4 minutes to acquire.

The image shown here is a composite, with each star expanded by a factor of 2, but positioned in its correct location. The image has also been linearized and contrast-enhanced. The angle between the star Acrux and the star Gacrux is about 6 degrees. The compact star images indicate that CTX is in good focus and performing well. Additional analysis of the precise star positions will be used to ensure that maps of Mars made from CTX data will be accurate.

Tips for Media Use

Malin Space Science Systems built two cameras on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter the Context Camera (CTX) and the Mars Color Imager (MARCI). MSSS operates both cameras from its facilities in San Diego, California. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's operates the MRO spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, from facilities in Pasadena, California and Denver, Colorado.

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