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 ")

New Laser Space Debris Clearing More Subtle Than Clarke's
Rather than nudge them up, nudge them down.

Proposal To Use Lasers To Analyze Asteroids
'Wendis stared thoughtfully at the brilliant lines on the spectroscope screen.' - EC Tubb, 1958.

Juno Gets Close To Jupiter, Fiction Gets Closer!
Amazing Juno spacecraft cozies up to the biggest planet in our solar system.

NASA Submarine For Titan
'Straight away from the shore it swam, seeing nothing but flecks of paraffin...' - Michael Swanwick, 2002.

 

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

Smart Fabric Can Harvest Energy From Sunshine And Motion
'The clothes and jewellery drew their tiny power requirements from her movements.'

IBM's Neuromorphic Chip
'The full sensitivity of the neuristor brain was not appreciated at first.'

Russia's Protective Ferrite Fabric
'His suit-shield sucked in the energy and discharged it...'

MiniMed 670G - First 'Artificial Pancreas' Approved By FDA
'Proved the workability of wholly mechanical organs...'

iPal Nanny Robot Will Raise Your Kids
'Playfully, Nanny caught Bobby's arm with her grapple and drew him to her.'

NVIDIA's DAVE2 Autonomous Car Learns From Drivers
'So we took pictures of Guzub making a Three Planets...'

Robots Don't Need To Be Humanoid
'People are used to android robots... They'll be scared of your unhuman-looking contraptions...'

Tractor Beams? They're Working On It
'Brandon swung mighty tractor beams...'

Hi-Yo Modobag! Away!
'A tumblebug does not give a man dignity...'

Snap Specs - Snapchat Spectacles - Are Video Glasses
'The old woman laid her wire-knitting aside and fixed them with the bug-eyed, opaque gape...'

Reading A Scroll Burned To Charcoal
'The scope was adjusted to generate... an image of the lower section of the book.'

Robot Arrested In Moscow
They should have thrown a net over him.

Oh Great, Fence-Climbing Robots
How long till they add the acid-tipped stingers?

Software Agents Fight Unseen On The Web
'...Worms and counter-worms loose on the data-net.'

Sandisk 1 Terabyte SD Memory Card Surfaces
'They should be Welton Fine-Grains, or they would be too bulky to ship...'

Carbyne, The Ultimate Form Of Carbon
'A continuous pseudo-one dimensional diamond crystal...'

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.