Quick update on the situation with Opportunity…
There’s no news. Nothing to report at all. It’s now three weeks since Opportunity was last in contact with Earth, since she sent back that partial, interference-speckled image, and all the MER team can do is keep listening for her with crossed fingers. She could phone home today – she could have phoned home through the night, we just don’t know about it yet – or she might not beep us for weeks or even months yet. We have to accept the possibility that she might never contact us again. We just don’t know.
What we do know is that the dust storm which has darkened Opportunity’s sky is now covering almost all of Mars and showing no real signs of winding down. Images taken by Curiosity, still trundling around on the other side of Mars, now show a sky and a landscape darkened by thick dust too, so it’s not just Opportunity being affected. Of course, as Curiosity is nuclear powered, and doesn’t rely on the Sun to charge batteries like Opportunity does, this storm isn’t so much of a big deal for it.
So, good readers, there is nothing we – or anyone – can do. All we can do is just wait and see what happens, and as we wait support the MER team as much as possible.
One other thing you can do is find Mars in the night sky, and as you look at it think how amazing Opportunity’s mission has been so far. Mars is really easy to find at the moment – it is at its closest to Earth for 15 years so is shining at its brightest for 15 years too (despite the dust storm, which amateur astronomers are really cursing; they have been looking forward to spectacularly detailed views of Mars through their telescopes and all they can see is an almost-featureless orange ball..!) – looking like a very bright orange-red “star” rising in the east (for northern hemisphere folks) around midnight. By late July it will rise in the east at the same time as the Sun is setting in the west, and will be even brighter than it is now, impossible to miss.
I’ve been photographing Mars from here in Kendal over the past few weeks, and here are some of my photos. Nothing special, I just hope they’ll encourage you to go out and look for Mars yourself. 🙂