Monday, January 9, 2012

Short Sharp Science

Opportunity Mars rover finds winter parking spot

Flora Graham, deputy editor,
(Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)

Many of us wish for a dose of sunshine during the dark winter months, and NASA's Opportunity Mars rover is no different. The plucky planet pioneer will be chilling out on this sunny slope for the duration of the Red Planet's winter.
By parking on a North-facing incline, Opportunity's solar panels will continue to generate enough power to keep the rover up and running over the winter. The manoeuvre wasn't required in previous years, but the rover's panels have become covered in Martian dust since it started its mission in 2004.
The rover team have dubbed the rocky ridge where Opportunity will spend the season Greeley Haven, in honour of the late Ronald Greeley, a planetary geologist at Arizona State University who died last year.
As well as putting Opportunity in the sun, the area offers plenty of interesting-looking rock and soil to examine. The variety of material on Greeley Haven is emphasised in this false-colour image, which combines infrared, green and violet light.

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