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Curiosity Produces Images Taken at Night

First Posted: Jan 28, 2013 06:01 AM EST

The car-sized Curiosity is making slow and steady progress as it continues its investigation of the Martian surface.  Of late, Curiosity seems to be working in the night shift. On Jan. 22, 2013, Curiosity for the first time produced a set of images taken at night. These images were captured using the camera on its arm.

The scientists chose "Sayunei" as the rock target to capture the images. They used the rover's Mars Hand Lens imager (MAHLI) instrument for a close-up nighttime view. MAHLI consists of an adjustable focus color camera that includes LED illumination sources, four white and two ultraviolet which emit light in a waveband centered at a wavelength of 365 nanometres.

With the help of ultraviolet illumination, scientists can check for the presence of fluorescent materials.

Curiosity's front wheel scrapped the surface of Sayunei in order to provide fresh, dust free material for examination.

"The purpose of acquiring observations under ultraviolet illumination was to look for fluorescent minerals," MAHLI principal investigator Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, said in a press statement.

The data sent by Curiosity was analyzed by the team, which is looking for evidence of any green, yellow, orange or red under the ultraviolet illumination. If they spot this, it is a clear-cut indicator of fluorescence.

According to Richard Cook, Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager, drilling into rock samples is the most challenging activity since landing, reports Web Pro News.

Edgett told TPM that it wasn't until the Curiosity rover entered its current area on the Martian surface almost two months ago that the science team began observing materials that had the potential to fluoresce, or glow, which is partially why they waited so long to snap the nighttime photos.

Sayunei is located in Yellowknife Bay, an area that the Curiosity team has chosen for its first drilling. John Klein, a rock in Yellowknife Bay, has been chosen as the drilling site.

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