Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New images reveal threatening conditions that two rovers face in giant Martian dust storm

The mighty Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity continue to persevere in brutal conditions, as revealed in images of the sun they are sending home. The images show how opaque the Martian atmosphere has been in the face of a raging, two-month dust storm.

To understand the gravity of the storm, engineers and astronomers monitor the situation by examining the images of the sun and measuring the amount of dust or the opacity of the atmosphere.

Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society assembled the mosaic of images, which were taken daily by the panoramic cameras (Pancams) on both rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. The images were calibrated by students in Cornell's MarsLab image-processing facility and made available through collaboration with Jim Bell, Cornell professor of astronomy and the principal investigator on the rovers' Pancam imaging team.

"Emily's mosaics are quite remarkable. They show a rover's-eye view of the storm getting worse, and this little light bulb we call the sun getting dimmer and dimmer and dimmer as the dust clouds built up," said Bell.

Since June, a massive dust storm has engulfed much of the Martian surface. The storm has put the rovers in danger, as they depend upon solar power to run during the day and to survive the harsh, cold Martian nights. As dust clouds block the sunlight and dust settles on the solar panels, the rovers' energy is depleted. Only wind can remove the dust, Bell said.

For the rover Spirit, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., reports that even though the Martian sky above Gusev Crater is clearing, solar power levels remained fairly low and constant dust now appears to be accumulating on the solar panels. Between sol -- a Martian day -- 1283 (Aug. 12) and sol 1286 (Aug. 16), the atmosphere cleared by about 35 percent, leading to daily energy levels of about 300 watt-hours (the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for three hours). Typical levels before the dust storms were around 700 to 900 watt-hours for the rovers.

On the other side of Mars, Opportunity, now waiting to enter Victoria Crater from the rim, is currently experiencing its lowest power levels to date. The sky was so dark in mid-July that less than 200 watt-hours of daily energy was available, according to JPL. But skies are slowly clearing, offering hope that the rover will be ready for a descent into the crater soon. Opportunity benefited from wind blowing some dust off solar panels on Aug. 22. Under gradually clearing skies, Opportunity's solar panels were producing about 300 watt hours daily by Aug. 24.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.

Blaine Friedlander | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

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: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>