Mars Robot Takes Up Stargazing

The Mars robot Spirit has been stuck on the side of a sand dune. Dust accumulations on its solar panels limit its power. Engineers ponder efforts to free the robot, while it sits idle.

What to do?

A stray gust of wind blew most of the dust off, giving Spirit more juice than its had in years. NASA scientists decided to give the robot a chance to do what most of us have done at one time or another - look up at the stars.


(Mars Spirit star view)

Most of the dots in the picture shown above are just hot pixels. However, Canopus shows clearly as a streak on the left side.

"Certainly, a month or more ago, no one was considering astronomy with the rovers," said Mark Lemmon, planetary scientist at Texas A&M University and member of the rover team. "We thought that was done. With the dust cleanings, though, everyone thinks it is better to use the new found energy on night time science than to just burn it with heaters."

"The Canopus images may become a regular occurrence, as a way to monitor dust and/or ice in the sky at night–much as we use Sun images in the day," Lemmon said. "For something like that, we can pick an aim (Canopus, Orion, etc.) and choose filters. We might use color filters to look for any differences that show up, or the clear filter for the most sensitive measurement. Star exposures can go up to 5.5 minutes (compare to 0.1-0.5 sec for a normal day image). We cannot track stars, so they trail after 10 seconds or so–as you see Canopus doing. In longer exposures, hot pixels and cosmic rays show up as points or cluster of light."

Scientists also use the images to look for evidence of night-time clouds, fog and haze that can be noted from the Martian surface.

If we are going to have automated robotic probes out there exploring the galaxy, like the biological package probes from Larry Niven's 1976 story A World Out of Time, we're certainly going to need stargazing robots.

From Universe Today.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/30/2009)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Starlink Satellites Leading Edge On-Orbit Debris Mitigation
Propulsion-assisted orbital decay, brought to you by SpaceX.

Space Hero Inc. Offers Trip To ISS As Reality Show Prize
'This is Elmer Schmitz, presenting to you the finalists in our Aviation Quiz Program...' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1952.

Bigrating Laser Beam-Riding Light Sail Is Self-Correcting
'That sail will be twenty thousand miles at the wide part.' - Cordwainer Smith, 1960.

ISS Astronauts Test Estee Lauder 'Advanced Night Repair' Skin Serum
'Out in the New Moon, just ask for what you want...' - Jack Williamson, 1939.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Jet-Powered Flying Suits Tested By Navy
'With his motor in operation, he moves like a diver, head foremost...'

Pub Installs Electrified Fence Around Bar
'I start twelve immensely strong wires--naked, not insulated --from a big dynamo...'

What Does A Tesla Full Self-Driving Car See?
'All objects within my panoramic gaze trembled and vibrated like quick motion pictures...'

BioVYZR Is Ready, Anti-Covid19 PAPR Lovers
'Some clad in the insulated space-suits, with their transparent glassite helmets.'

Tesla Will Have Metal Gear Snake Autocoupler, Musk Confirms
'Its motion was so swift, complex, and perfect that at first I did not see it as a machine, in spite of its metallic glitter.'

Starlink Satellites Leading Edge On-Orbit Debris Mitigation
Propulsion-assisted orbital decay, brought to you by SpaceX.

Healight Ultraviolet Endotracheal Device Has Covid-19 Treatment Potential
'He applied the tip of the instrument to the interior of the wound...'

Parents Use AI To See One Last Message From Their Deceased Son
'...what's to keep me from showing face, Man?'

Satoshi Tomizu Creates Pocket Universes And Worldcraft Bubbles In Glass
'The Worldcraft bubble glittered, catching the light...'

Space Hero Inc. Offers Trip To ISS As Reality Show Prize
'This is Elmer Schmitz, presenting to you the finalists in our Aviation Quiz Program...'

I Love Ceiling-Mounted Robots
'Immediately an enormous apparatus fell on to her out of the ceiling...'

Armano Remote Control Excavator
'The bulldozer moved through the... mine... '

OK, NASA 3D Printer Of Food Not Yet Star Trek Food Synthesizer
Maybe not, but we're seeing definite progress.

Kelly Clarkson Show Like Black Mirror '15 Million Merits'
'These people are pieces of software called avatars.'

Salto Jumping Robot Now Sticks Landing!
'Lucky touched the leap knob and the hopper's leg retracted.'

Gyroscopic Median-Straddling Mass Transit Vehicles
'It was among these leviathans that the little gyrocar was daring to thrust its puny self...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.