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[i]The 17 cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover are capable of sending back unprecedented, jaw-dropping, full-color views of Mars — but don't expect to be wowed by the first images. In fact, they just might be literally the size of postage stamps, in black and white.
Millions of people will be watching NASA's coverage of Curiosity's landing at 10:31 p.m. PT Sunday (1:31 a.m. ET Monday), on displays ranging from palm-sized smartphone screens to the giant screen in New York's Times Square. If the landing is successful, the first thing we'll see is bunches of grown men and women acting like giddy teenagers, pointing at blips on their computer monitors. What we definitely won't see are the 2-megapixel, color images that Curiosity's best cameras are capable of capturing.
Instead, we might see 64-by-64-pixel, black-and-white thumbnails from the rover's hazard avoidance cameras, or Hazcams. If NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has time to relay more data from Curiosity, they might be 256 pixels square. Or there might be no pictures at all, just because Odyssey wasn't able to acquire enough of a signal fast enough.
In that case, we'll have to wait for Odyssey's second orbital pass, at around 12:45 a.m. PT Sunday (3:45 a.m. ET Monday). The fisheye-view Hazcam images sent during that opportunity could be 512 pixels square or maybe even 1,024 pixels square.[/i]
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