What you see here
On this website you find true color images taken by the Panoramic Camera on each of the Marsrovers Spirit and Opportunity. This is how images would look like, if an astronaut on the surface of Mars took images with a 1 Megapixel digital camera and sent them back to Earth via a planet wide Internet. That means, the colors appear the same as the astronaut would see them.
On the left you see two columns of number pairs. The number before the colon represents the Martian solar day (Sol) since the landing of each Rover. The link leads to an album page with almost all color images taken on that day. The number behind the colon is the number of images available on that album page.
Note, that the color images are created automatically from all raw color data available. That means, there are also images which do not represent true color as they have been taken with filters outside the wavelength range of the human eye.
Those images marked with a dark grey border (name suffix _L4L5L5L5L6) are the true color ones.
The color and contrast of these images appear different than those shown on the official NASA JPL Marsrovers Website. If you like to know why, continue reading below.
How the images are created
The images are automatically created daily from raw data available at JPL Marsrovers Gallery.
Fig.1: The image creation process applied to all images on this website (MER2RGB-process):
3 raw images are taken through the red (L4), green (L5) and blue (L6) filter with the Rover Panoramic Camera.
The red and green images are combined (each pixel value summarized) with weighting 70/30; the same is done with blue and green.
The results from step 2 are combined into one color image.
Every Martian day (Sol) new raw images are downloaded. The raw images are black & white images, each taken through a colored glass (filter) by the Panoramic Camera on the Rover. By using 3 filters, each one only letting pass red, green and blue light, a true color image can be created. This is in principle the same as every common photo or video camera creates color images.
The Rover Panoramic Camera differs from normal digital cameras by having filters with smaller bandwidth resulting in images with appear as having too much color saturation. To counteract this effect a special but simple processing is done as follows:
By combining the black & white images from two filters a visual effect is created as the image would have been taken through one filter with wider bandwidth. The result is a good approximation to true natural colors.
As the Rover Panoramic Camera contains more than only red, green and blue filters there are more combinations available to create color images. The images created with these additional filters (L2, L3 and L7) show slightly different colorizations as L2 and L3 pass only light of near infrared wavelengths and L7 pass only violet light. However, with the MER2RGB-process described above the overall colors approximate true colors sufficiently. That means, the soil looks still "Earth-like" and the sky is still blue to white.
You can find more detailed explanations about the Panoramic Camera and its filters on pages at cornell.edu, planetary.org and highmars.org.
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