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Press Release Images: Opportunity
12-Jul-2004
 
 
Clouds Roll in for Martian Winter
Clouds Roll in for Martian Winter

Using its left navigation camera, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity sought to capture some clouds on its 153rd sol on Mars (June 28, 2004). The presence of morning clouds in the area of Endurance Crater was established by spacecraft orbiting Mars. Mars has three kinds of clouds: dust clouds low in the atmosphere; water clouds near the surface up to heights of 20 kilometers (about 12 miles); and carbon dioxide clouds at very high altitudes.

Just as on Earth, clouds, especially water clouds, are good tracers of the weather. Based on orbital data, more clouds are expected during the martian winter. As this change occurs, the rover's cameras and miniature thermal emission spectrometer will track other changes that occur as the clouds accumulate.

The rovers provide a unique opportunity to examine the lower portion of Mars' atmosphere. The lower atmosphere is difficult to characterize from orbit, but it is critical because that is where the atmosphere interacts with the surface. Since the rovers landed, the science team has been using the rover's miniature thermal emission spectrometer instrument to see the weather at this bottom layer.

Image credit: NASA/JPL
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Looking into 'London'
Looking into "London"

This mosaic image from the microscopic imager on the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows the rock abrasion tool target, "London." The image was taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity on its 149th sol on Mars (June 24, 2004). Scientists "read" the geology of the image from bottom to top, with the youngest material pictured at the bottom of the image and the oldest material in the layers pictured at the top. Millimeter-scale layers run horizontally across the exposed surface, with two sliced sphere-like objects, or "blueberries" on the upper left and upper right sides of the impression. This material is similar to the evaporative material found in "Eagle Crater." However, the intense review of these layers in Endurance Crater is, in essence, deepening the water story authored by ancient Mars.

In Eagle Crater, the effects of water were traced down a matter of centimeters. Endurance Crater's depth has allowed the tracing of water's telltale marks up to meters. Another process that significantly affects martian terrain is muddying the water story a bit. Although it is clear that the layers in Endurance were affected by water, it is also evident that Aeolian, or wind, processes have contributed to the makeup of the crater.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/USGS
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