Rugged Martian terrain captured by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity rover. The purplish tint represents the iron-oxide mineral hematite.
NASA’s Curiosity rover is placing its color-discerning capabilities to full use because it treads up a steep Martian ridge on decrease Mount Sharp.
Curiosity started climbing Vera Rubin Ridge in early September and is utilizing its Mast Camera (Mastcam) to determine variations within the terrain forward, which is able to badist the rover’s handlers map a path up the steep slope, in accordance with an announcement from NASA.
“We’re in an area where this capability of Curiosity has a chance to shine,” Abigail Fraeman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who leads planning for the mission’s investigation of Vera Rubin Ridge, mentioned within the badertion. [Curiosity Rover Climbing Steep Martian Ridge (Photos)]
Curiosity is supplied with particular filters that may determine sure minerals within the bedrock, in addition to a spectrometer that kinds gentle into 1000’s of wavelengths. Some of the Mastcam’s science filters are used to detect sure minerals based mostly on the wavelengths of sunshine which might be both absorbed or mirrored. For instance, the rover’s digicam can detect the iron-oxide mineral hematite, which is believed to be considerable within the higher reaches of the Vera Rubin Ridge, in accordance with the badertion.
Prior to Curiosity touchdown on the Red Planet in 2012, NASA scientists first detected proof of hematite on the Vera Rubin Ridge utilizing spectrometer observations from orbit. The mineral often varieties in moist environments, so its presence might present clues in regards to the planet’s watery previous, NASA officers mentioned.
“As we approached the ridge and now as we’re climbing it, we’ve been trying to tie what was detected from orbit to what we can learn on the ground,” Danika Wellington, Curiosity science group member from Arizona State University, mentioned within the badertion. “It’s still very much a work in progress. The extent to which iron-bearing minerals here are oxidized relates to the history of interactions between water and rock.”
Curiosity additionally has a chemistry and digicam instrument referred to as the ChemCam. Although this instrument typically makes use of a laser to determine chemical parts in rocks, it too has color-filtering talents that can be utilized to determine the composition of rocks and goal minerals throughout mbadive landscapes.
“The colors of the rocks on the ridge are more interesting and more variable than what we saw earlier in Curiosity’s traverse,” Jeffrey Johnson, a scientist from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, mentioned within the badertion.
Hematite absorbs some wavelengths of inexperienced gentle and displays crimson and blue gentle, which supplies the terrain a purplish tint in colour photographs captured by Curiosity. The further color-discerning capabilities of Curiosity’s Mastcam and ChemCam seize a transparent view of hematite deposits which might be current within the bedrock.
“We’re using these multi-spectral and hyper-spectral capabilities for examining rocks right in front of the rover and also for reconnaissance — looking ahead to help with choosing where to drive for closer inspection,” Johnson mentioned.
In reality, Mastcam photographs taken on Sept. 12 recognized hematite in an space that was on the time a number of days’ drive away, in areas round fractured bedrock. Upon additional investigation, NASA scientists discovered that the mineral was extra extensively distributed than beforehand thought and is roofed by a layer of tan mud in some areas, inflicting the hematite to look patchier than it truly is. The discovery suggests the mineral could have fashioned early in Mars’ historic previous, in accordance with the badertion from NASA.