Mars Rover Curiosity Takes Nighttime Photos


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NASA announced today that Mars rover Curiosity has used the camera on its arm to take pictures at night. The photos were of a rock named "Sayunei," which Curiosity had purposely scuffed with its left-front wheel to uncover dust-free materials.

This was the first time the rover has taken photos at night using the white and ultraviolet lights on its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) instrument. The MAHLI is an adjustable-focus camera that has its own LED light sources.

"The purpose of acquiring observations under ultraviolet illumination was to look for fluorescent minerals," said Ken Edgett, MAHLI principal investigator at Malin Space Science Systems. "The science team is still assessing the observations. If something looked green, yellow, orange or red under the ultraviolet illumination, that'd be a more clear-cut indicator of fluorescence."

"Sayunei" is located in a low-lying area NASA has named "Yellowknife Bay." The area is the one chosen by the rover team to be the site of Curiosity's first test of its hammering drill. Last week, researchers announced that a rock in "Yellowknife Bay" named "John Klein" has been tentatively chosen to be the subject of the rover's first drilling. Richard Cook, the Mars Science Laboratory project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory described the drilling test at the "most challenging activity since the landing."

The photo below is of "Sayunei" under ultraviolet light:

A mars rock under ultraviolet light

(Images courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)