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The Most Obscure Spork Reference Ever

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Oct 27, 2011
The Most Obscure Spork Reference Ever

The image above is a 3-D high resolution image of an impact crater on Mars. Why is it here? Well, we often get emails from Eaters who've come across references to sporks in strange places, like children's books, movies, and more. But Eater Chris in Arizona writes with what is officially the most obscure reference to the spork that we've ever seen: 
I work for a group at the University of Arizona that operates the HiRISE camera, which is orbiting Mars aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. You can see many of our images at www.uahirise.org.

One of the big important image products we produce is stereo pairs - you know, you take a picture of an area of Mars while the camera is looking to the left, and then later on, you take a picture of the same area when the camera is looking to the right. You get a 3D effect, except unlike these really crappy 3D movies where they fake 3D after shooting normally, we get actual stereo images. We put most of these together---

I swear this is relevant.
We put most of these together as red/blue anaglyphs, like old-timey 3D pictures. We also build up detailed actual 3D models of the surface from some of these. The process is long and involved, but the results are used to pick good landing sites for landers and rovers, for example.

You can see our anaglyphs here: http://www.uahirise.org/anaglyph/
You can see our 3D models here: http://www.uahirise.org/dtm/
Planning a stereo pair is an enormous pain in the [butt]. I write the software we use to do this planning, and believe me, the amount of [butt] needed to quantify the pain is astonishing. The results are pretty good, though, so it's worth it.

Most of our pairs are taken with months between the first image and the second image. The very best ones, however, the holy grail of stereo planning, happen when we can take the two images with less than two weeks between them. These images, these holiest of holy grail image pairs, we call them…

It stands for "Stereo Pair, Orbits Restricted to a Cycle." A "cycle" as we use the term is a two-week planning period.

[So] we're always talking about SPORCs at our team meetings. And I always make it a point to wear my cool Sporkful t-shirt to those meetings. And everyone gets a kick out of it, especially our head honcho.

In other words, we would not have pictures of Mars like the beautiful one above if it weren't for sporks. Or SPORCs. /dan
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