Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Curiosity' can be positioned with eclipses

14.12.2012
Observations from 'Curiosity' when Mar's moon Phobos crosses in front of the sun, like in September, help us to understand exactly where the rover is on the red planet. Researchers at the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain) have developed a method for achieving precisely this.

The exact location of Curiosity on the surface of Mars is determined using data transmitted from its antennas as well as the space probes that orbit the red planet. It is very unlikely that these systems would fail but in such an eventuality there would be an alternative for determining the location of the rover: 'ask it' what eclipses it sees.


This image shows Phobos in transit last September.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

"Observing these events offers an independent method for determining the coordinates of Curiosity," explains Gonzalo Barderas, researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and coauthor of the study.

For this method to be used the robot must have a camera or sensor capable of sending data about an eclipse. "It could prove especially useful when there is no direct communication with Earth that allows for estimation of its position using radiometric dating or images provided by orbiters," outlines the researcher.

The initial objective of the UCM group was to create a mathematical tool for predicting Phobos eclipses from the surface of Mars. But their method also proved useful in locating the precise location of any spacecraft that are also capable of observing eclipses from there. The details have been published in the 'Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society' journal.

The model predicted partial eclipses that took place on the 13 and 17 September. The MastCam camera that Curiosity carries in its mast captured them without any problems. The Spanish REMS instrument, namely the vehicle's environmental station, also detected a reduction in ultraviolet solar radiation during the eclipses (5% in the first case).

The initial simulations and the real end images coincided with a precision of one second. In order to make their calculations, the scientists considered the initial predicted landing area for Curiosity: an ellipse of 7 x 20 km2.

In addition, with just two minutes of observations and using the start and end times of Phobos' contact with the Sun, error can be reduced in the rover coordinates from an order of magnitude of kilometres to another of metres.

According to the model, the next movements of the Martian moon will take place between the 13 and 20 August 2013 and between the 3 and 8 August 2014. Curiosity will have the chance to observe eclipses again and the Spanish scientists will be able to confirm the validity of their tool.

"In any case, this method can be applied to other space probes operating on the surface of Mars that have the ability to make optical observations or that have instruments that measure solar radiation," outlines Luis Vázquez, one of the authors.

In fact, under the scientific management of Vázquez, this study forms part of a Spanish project associated to the joint Russian, Spanish and Finnish MetNet mission to distribute small meteorological stations across Mars.

The project is called the Mars Environmental Instrumentation for Ground and Atmosphere (MEIGA). Its aim is to place different sensors on the red planet, including those involving solar radiation that can detect eclipses.

References:

G. Barderas, P. Romero, L. Vázquez, J. L. Vazquez-Poletti, I. M. Llorente. "Opportunities to observe solar eclipses by Phobos with the Mars Science Laboratory". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 426 (4): 3195-3200, October 2012. Doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2966.2012.21939.x.

Press Office | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.agenciasinc.es
http://www.fecyt.es

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Innovative LED High Power Light Source for UV
22.06.2017 | Omicron - Laserage Laserprodukte GmbH

nachricht Spin liquids − back to the roots
22.06.2017 | Universität Augsburg

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

Im Focus: Optoelectronic Inline Measurement – Accurate to the Nanometer

Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.

New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation

22.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

A rhodium-based catalyst for making organosilicon using less precious metal

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>