Anything Curiosity can do…

Oppy can do too!

Around the other side of Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, has been taking pictures of Mars’ twin moons, Phobos and Deimos, transiting – or crossing- the face of the Sun. They’re not exactly dramatic images, the moons just look like black shapes silhouetted against the bright disc of the Sun, but when you think what they actually show… nothing less than partial eclipses of the Sun caused by the moons of Mars… they’re pretty amazing!

Here’s what Curiosity saw the other day…

That’s the tiny moon Deimos, in front of the Sun. The nuclear-powered rover also saw the larger moon, Phobos, but that moon didn’t pass right in front of the Sun, it just kind of clipped it. More pictures on my other Curiosity-related blog if you want a look.

But back to Oppy! The other day she saw Phobos transiting the face of the Sun too. Here’s one of the images…

Ah. Um…. ok. Where’s Phobos? Well, the Sun is so over-exposed on that image that you can’t actually see it. But if you look closely, just above the Sun you’ll see a much fainter reflection of the Sun…and there, smack in the middle, is the moon! See?

Oppy took lots of images during the transit, which means that if you put them together in an animation you can actually see Phobos sailing in front of the Sun… you’ll need to click on this next image, I think, before you can see anything happening – and remember, look at the reflection above the Sun, not the Sun itself…

There you go – a partial eclipse of the Sun as seen from Mars. Don’t say I never give you anything! :-)

Meanwhile, Oppy continues to look downwards too, at the rocks scattered around her. Here’s a colour view of the area of Whitewater Lake she recently brushed clean. You can see that beneath its coating of orange dust, Whitewater Lake is actually blue-grey…

I wonder if she’ll drill *into* this rock? We should know soon.

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4 Responses to Anything Curiosity can do…

  1. Simon Heath says:

    As a graduate student studying Mars and working with the professor who runs the Opportunity Pancam and MSL Mastcam… you make some darn fine images. :-) Unfortunately I’m not part of rover operations myself, but that just means I get to discover all this stuff on my own.

    You’ve mentioned a few times wishing you knew more geology so you could understand what’s going on with these rocks… well… as a geologist, I’m stumped! Okay, not quite, but it’s very weird. You have those dark, clumpy-looking outcrops of material sticking out, which upon inspection look like they’re completely made out of that spherule stuff. No clue what that is; it almost looks like terrestrial oolite, but the ooids I’ve seen on Earth have a concentric structure when broken which that stuff seems to lack. You CAN see some amount of structure in some of them, but it looks like a core surrounded by a thick layer with slight radial patterning… That sort of suggests they did grow from the inside out via some solution process, but… crazy. Maybe they’re impact spherules? If so, that’s a THICK layer of them; they’re normally like a couple centimeters! There’s also the fact that they look like the outcrop is made of tilted layers jutting up out of the surrounding rock, which is double crazy, but it’s hard to be sure from the images if that is really the case.

    As for that rock being looked at right now, it seems pretty representative of everything that ISN’T the spherule bed. The microscopic images show that it’s retardedly uniform and fine-grained, and the color image shows that it’s medium-dark grey. On Earth I would say basalt or andesite, but Mars’s surface is essentially made of basalt, so it’s hard to go wrong saying that. That suggests a lava flow, possibly a large flood basalt like the Columbia River Plateau, which are thought to be relatively common on Mars.

    So, at a wild guess of history for the area… Something made a thick spherule bed (oolite forming in a shallow lake? Badass impact spherule layer? Subsurface hydrothermal process like the blueberries?), the impact that made Endeavour crater broke it up and tilted some of the layers, and then the whole thing got paved over by flood basalt. And there’s evidence of hydrothermal alteration from the gypsum layers too. It’s a really cool area!

    • phoenixpics says:

      Thanks SO much for reading the blog, and for contributing via this comment, too, I appreciate it. Lots of fascinating info in your comment, helped make thinks a little clearer, thanks! :-)

  2. I like the ‘video’ of the partial Phobean(???) eclipse of the Sun. I never thought I’d see anything like that. Keep up the great work on all those images Stu. I really don’t know how you find the time. Do you ever sleep?

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