20 December 2018

Sols 2276-2278: Capturing Light into the New Year

Posted by Ryan Anderson

As we cross the winter solstice and daylight lengthens here on Earth, the Vera Rubin Ridge campaign on Mars is shortening up towards a science-filled end ‘capturing the light’ across all its splendid spectrum. On sol 2276, the plan includes a CheMin analysis to illuminate the drill sample ‘Rock Hall’ in X-ray light, staring at the plasma glow from the ultra violet through the visible into the near infrared (what you see with your eyes and slightly beyond) from ChemCam on bedrock targets ‘Auchenheath,’ ‘Firth of Forth,’ and ‘Port Charlotte’ as well as a panchromatic (artsy black and white) RMI mosaic of the large white vein ‘Hopetoun.’ All these targets also get viewed in their red-green-blues (i.e. color) using Mastcam. Additional change detection Mastcam images are planned for targets ‘Fishertown’ and ‘Luskentyre’ to see how the soil moves around in the thin martian atmosphere. Navcam will make a ‘movie’ (multiple frames taken close in time) of dust devils dancing across the flat Aeolis Palus plains including a line-of-sight observation to record atmospheric dust density. Mastcam will stare wistfully at the crater rim to help characterize dust and a solar tau observing aerosol (i.e. dust and such) scattering properties in the air. Some pragmatic Navcam sky flats taken on sol 2277 help monitor camera lens cleanliness along with Rock Hall CheMin data sent home as a parting gift from 2018. On New Year’s Eve, a ChemCam Passive observation (no laser) will ring out the evening and another in the predawn hours of sol 2278 for the first observation of the New Year! The second day on the new Earth year has Curiosity gazing out into the distance, perhaps thinking of its science resolutions to get to the clay flats just to the south, with Navcam line-of-sight (LOS), suprahorizon, and cloud-watching zenith movies, as well as a Mastcam solar tau, crater rim extinction, and sky survey observations. Happy New Year to all as we welcome more Mars science to come in 2019!

Written by Fred Calef, Planetary Geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory