The exact location of NASA's InSight landlord in Elysium Planitia is now known thanks to images captured by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The InSight lander was due to Mars on November 26, with NASA scientists sure that it had lived somewhere along a 130 km long (130 km long) ellipse chosen as an ideal landing zone. But that's exactly the place within Elysium Planitia – a flat lava plain just north of the Martian equator – was not known until now.
NASA's March Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), a satellite that has been in circulation around Mars since 2006, scanned the marsh near the suspected landing area on December 6, then again five days later. Images taken by his camera, High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), revealed InSight's location within the plain, along with the location of its discarded heat shield and parachute.
Some of the objects in the pictures have a chrome-like shade, which is not their actual color. Light "reflected by its surfaces to make the paint saturate," explains NASA in a drop. This effect is what is called a mirror reflection.
"It looks like the heat shield has its dark exterior facing down, because it's so bright," wrote the HiRISE team on his blog. "The landlord disturbed dust over a fair distance and has darkened the surface, as previously seen in Phoenix and Curiosity landings. The light point associated with the lander is probably another reflection, and there are two minor bluish extensions that are the sunshine and their shadows."
"The rear skirt attached to the parachute can have another mirror reflection: the stretch that extends south far beyond the parachute is probably an existing dust coil track, writes the HiRISE team.
As noted, this is not the first time HiRISE has taken pictures of a marsh landing site. The camera discovered the Phoenix landing site in 2008 and the curiosity of 2012.
The InSight project is still in its opening stages, with NASA researchers who slowly test and calibrate their many instruments. It appears that InSight landed in a suitable location, where it will be able to use its seismometer and heat profile to study conditions under the Mars surface. NASA expects this to happen within about four to six weeks.[NASA, HiRISE]