MISSION UPDATES | March 18, 2021

Sols 3062-3063: Adjusting the Lighting on 'Mont Mercou'

Written by Melissa Rice, Planetary Geologist at Western Washington University
Rocky formation on Mars

This image was taken by Mast Camera (Mastcam) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3061. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Download image ›

In photography, the right lighting is essential. Portrait photographers and Instagram selfie afficionados favor the kind of soft lighting that smooths over bumps and imperfections. Geology photographers, on the other hand, want to see all of the bumps, lines, divots and wrinkles, as those features tell the story of how a rock was formed and altered. To get the right lighting for accentuating the small-scale textures of "Mont Mercou," the team is planning to photograph the cliff face right before sunset on sol 3063, when the Sun is at its lowest point in the sky. We hope this new Mastcam mosaic will bring out even more detail than we can see in the image above.

The evening Mastcam photoshoot is just one part of this two-sol plan. The main event is the second analysis of the "Nontron" drill sample by CheMin, to refine what we’re learning about the mineralogy of the rocks at the base of Mont Mercou. We’ll look some more at Mont Mercou and other regions earlier in the day with Mastcam, and will watch for clouds in the sky at twilight. We’ll also use ChemCam’s RMI to image a butte called “mini-Mercou" to the east, which is a re-shoot of some previous images that were slightly out of focus.

What happens next weekend and beyond depends on what the SAM data reveal about the Nontron drill sample, and whether the team decides to perform more analyses with SAM before getting ready to drive onwards and upwards into the sulfate-bearing units of Mt. Sharp.