Any striking color images that come back from the recently-landed Mars rover Curiosity are thanks to a California scientist, whose artistic sundial will illuminate the red planet’s true colors.
“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be able to look up and say, ‘Something I helped work on is sitting on another planet,’” said Dr. Tyler Nordgren, an astronomy professor at the University of Redlands near San Bernadino.
Nordgren’s sundial, which is about the size of a human hand, helps Curiosity take color photos by acting as a color corrector. Focusing on the colorful sundial first, the camera will register the true color of Mars.
The mission of Curiosity, which landed on Mars Sunday night, is to search for signs of life on the red planet.
“Mars is the most Earth-like planet we know of, and so if there was never any life on Mars, that means life on Earth is even more precious,” he said.
The astronomy professor isn’t new to Mars missions. In 2004, he contributed a sundial to that mission. But this time is different he says. His awe at the mission can be shared worldwide thanks to Facebook.
“Around the world, we’re all chatting about it,” he said.
Nordgren says he’s dreamt of this kind of mission since he was young.
“Here I am, thirty years later,” he said. “What 10-year-old is out there right now, seeing these same images and thinking, I could do that too?”