Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image taken on Sol 1699, May 17, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity continues towards Vera Rubin Ridge with a drive of 157 feet (48 meters), reports Michael Battalio, an atmospheric scientist from Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.

The NASA Mars rover is now in Sol 1700 and has been performing touch-and-go activities using its Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on “Ripple Pond,” a typical member of the Murray formation, Battalio adds.

Mastcam and Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) is set to follow up with observations of Ripple Pond.

Titled layers

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1698, May 17, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity’s Mastcam will next target “Rhodes Cliff,” Battalio notes, “which is especially interesting as it is tilted to show the Murray formation layers.”

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1698, May 17, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Following these observations, Curiosity is slated to drive and capture standard imaging for targeting in the weekend plan.

After the drive, ChemCam will perform an automated Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) activity to measure bright patches of outcrop.

Dusty atmosphere

Two measurements of dust in the atmosphere of Mars are to be captured by Mastcam on Sol 1700.

Tau image taken by Curiosity’s Mastcam Left camera on Sol April 18, 2017 Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

One measurement will determine the optical depth vertically (tau), and a second will determine the amount of dust towards the direction of the crater rim (line-of-sight).

Optical depth describes the amount of light attenuated (scattered or absorbed) above Curiosity, Battalio explains. An optical depth measurement, or tau, is defined as the logarithm of the ratio of the transmitted energy flux through some layer of the atmosphere to the received energy flux.

Atmospheric profile

“By looking directly at the Sun with Mastcam, the amount of energy reaching the surface can be determined. This is the transmitted flux through the entire atmosphere,” Battalio adds. Combined with an estimate of the incident energy from the Sun at the top of the Mars atmosphere from satellite observations (the received flux), he says, a reliable measurement of the optical depth for the entire atmosphere can be made.

The second dust measurement – a line-of-sight extinction (LOS), does a similar calculation to the tau, except horizontally instead of vertically.

Dust devil movie

On Sol 1701, the robot’s Navcam will capture a supra-horizon cloud movie and will perform an independent LOS measurement for comparison to the Mastcam measurement.

Finally, a dust devil movie will be taken around local noon. Normal Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) and Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) measurements as well as several Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) passive measurements and one DAN active will be captured, Battalio concludes.


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