Gale Crater: Mars Rover Landing Site
Sunday night is Curiosity’s time to shine.
NASA’s Curiosity rover is about to touch down in a Martian crater that not only looks like Australia, but also has a distant connection to the Great Southern Land.
Gale Crater on Mars, where Curiosity will land, looks a bit like Australia. It was also named after an Australian banker with a passion for astronomy. Credit: NASA
IN THE MIDDLE OF Gale crater on Mars, lies a huge, raised mound of layered rock that, from above, resembles the shape of the island nation of Australia. It’s fitting, then, that this crater is named after an Australian astronomer, Walter Frederick Gale.
Gale was born in the Sydney suburb of Paddington on 27 November 1865. His professional career was not in astronomy, but finance; he started off in insurance and then proceeding into banking, rising to become manager and chief inspector at the head office of the Savings Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac).
Encouraged by his father, he developed an interest in astronomy, and was particularly inspired by the Great Comet of 1882. He built his own telescope and swept the skies every night that cloud cover would allow, discovering seven comets over the course of his life. He was elected fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1893, and in that same year travelled to Chile with an expedition from Lick Observatory, California, to witness a solar eclipse.