14 April 2015

Sol 956: Curiosity to Watch Mercury Transit

Posted by Ryan Anderson

by Ryan Anderson

Rear hazcam view of the rover's tracks as we leave Shoshone quad.

With the last portion of the Telegraph Peak sample delivered to SAM and analyzed by APXS, we are ready to keep driving. In the sol 956 plan, there is a quick science block in the morning, to allow the rover to take a couple of Mastcam pictures of nearby boulders called “Waucoba” and Navcam pictures to complete the 360 degree panorama of the area. After that, we have a couple hours of driving, which should take us into a new “quad” on our map of the landing site. After the drive, Curiosity will take standard post-drive images to allow us to make targeted observations in the sol 957 plan.

Later in the day there’s another science block, which will be spent making some ChemCam observations of the onboard calibration targets. Also in that science block, Mastcam will take a 3×2 mosaic in the direction of sunset. The reason for these images is that we have a special observation at sunset: Mastcam will be taking pictures of Mercury as it transits the sun, right before the sun dips below the crater rim. This will be the last chance to
watch Mercury pass in front of the sun from Gale crater until 2024! Even without a transit occurring, I always like rover sunset pictures, so I’m looking forward to seeing how these observations turn out!

-Ryan is a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.