Things That Go Bump in the Night (on Mars)
Perseverance Views Phobos: NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used its Mastcam-Z camera to view Phobos, one of Mars’ two moons, on Jan. 12, 2022, the 319th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU. Download image ›

You stand in Jezero crater, Mars, at a minute to midnight. By the light of the stars and Mars’s two tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos, you can just make out the shape of the looming delta. Nothing moves; the wind tonight is too low to even push a sand grain over. All is peaceful and quiet. Then, out of nowhere, comes an alien, mechanical whirring noise... and a misshapen head rises up out of the darkness, its five eyes glinting menacingly.

But have no fear: this isn’t a ghostly monster or a vengeful Martian, but rather Perseverance going about its regular business!

In general, Perseverance carries out most of its activities during the daytime. This is partly because the rover needs light for taking images or driving using auto-navigation, but also because there is more power available. Once night falls, so do temperatures, which means that more power is needed to keep things warm, leaving less for science. However, you might be surprised by how much Perseverance does do at night.

For one thing, the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) continues to take weather data overnight. MEDA observes bursts of turbulence, winds linked to flows down the nearby crater rim, fluctuations in water vapor abundance, and nighttime variations in the amount of dust and water ice in the atmosphere above us.

The SuperCam microphone also regularly makes three-minute sound recordings at very high frequencies overnight, which tells us a lot about small-scale atmospheric turbulence.

The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) also generally schedules its oxygen generation runs at night. This is largely because air temperatures are much lower then, which - because density is proportional to pressure divided by temperature - means the air is densest at night. That increases the amount of oxygen MOXIE can generate from Mars’s carbon dioxide atmosphere, and a recent MOXIE nighttime run timed to coincide with the seasonal peak in surface pressure produced 10.4 grams of oxygen per hour, the highest rate so far!

The Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC) instrument also operates at night. This is because operating at night provides the least instrument noise and thus the most sensitive detections.

As for the five-eyed monster at midnight? Well, that would be the top of the articulated remote sensing mast getting into position, so that Mastcam-Z can image Phobos (see image). This provides a measurement, using visible light, of the amount of dust in the nighttime atmosphere, which can be compared to similar measurements made by looking at the sun during the daytime, and to nighttime measurements of dust abundance made in the infrared by MEDA.

It’s a busy life! But in fact, Perseverance isn’t the only one working at all hours. Back here on Earth, rover operations shifts can start as early as 6am Pacific Time, which means that Mars 2020 team members based in Hawaii need to start work at 3am their time. On the other hand, rover operations can also start much later in the day and end in the late evening Pacific Time, which means that Mars 2020 team team members in Europe don’t get to go to bed until their morning. So at least Perseverance can take comfort in not being the only one working the scary night shift!

About This Blog

These blog updates are provided by self-selected Mars 2020 mission team members who love to share what Perseverance is doing with the public.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these blogs are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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  • Mariah Baker
    Planetary Scientist, Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
    Washington, DC
  • Matthew Brand
    SuperCam/ChemCam Engineer, Los Alamos National LaboratoryLos Alamos National Laboratory
  • Sawyer Brooks
    Docking Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Adrian Brown
    Deputy Program Scientist, NASA HQ
    Washington, DC
  • Denise Buckner
    Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Fred Calef III
    Mapping Specialist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Alyssa Deardorff
    Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Kenneth Farley
    Project Scientist, Caltech
    Pasadena, CA
  • Phylindia Gant
    Mars 2020 Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Brad Garczynski
    Student Collaborator, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN
  • Erin Gibbons
    Student Collaborator, McGill University
    Montreal, Canada
  • Michael Hecht
    Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) Principal Investigator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Westford, MA
  • Louise Jandura
    Chief Engineer for Sampling & Caching, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Bavani Kathir
    Student Collaborator on Mastcam-Z, Western Washington University
  • Lydia Kivrak
    Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Rachel Kronyak
    Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Steven Lee
    Perseverance Deputy Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • An Li
    Student Collaborator on PIXL, University of Washington
  • Justin Maki
    Imaging Scientist and Mastcam-Z Deputy Principal Investigator, NASA/JPL
  • Sarah Milkovich
    Assistant Science Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Eleanor Moreland
    Ph.D. Student, Rice University
    Houston, Texas
  • Matt Muszynski
    Vehicle Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Claire Newman
    Atmospheric Scientist, Aeolis Research
    Altadena, CA
  • Avi Okon
    Sampling Operations Deputy Lead, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Pegah Pashai
    Vehicle Systems Engineer Lead, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • David Pedersen
    Co-Investigator, PIXL Instrument, Technical University of Denmark (DTU)
    Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Eleni Ravanis
    Student Collaborator, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
    Honolulu, HI
  • Kathryn Stack
    Deputy Project Scientist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Vivian Sun
    Science Operations Systems Engineer, Staff Scientist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Iona (Brockie) Tirona
    Sampling Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Jennifer Trosper
    Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Vandi Verma
    Chief Engineer for Robotic Operations, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Rick Welch
    Deputy Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Roger Wiens
    Principal Investigator, SuperCam / Co-Investigator, SHERLOC instrument, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN

Tools on the Perseverance Rover+

The Perseverance rover has tools to study the history of its landing site, seek signs of ancient life, collect rock and soil samples, and help prepare for human exploration of Mars. The rover carries:


Where is the Rover?

Image of a rover pin-point at Perseverance's location on Mars, Jezero Crater

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