Michael and Ken’s Sol 1645 Update: Searching for dust devils

22 March 2017 – The APXS will still be deployed on The Hop early on Sol 1645, and to avoid using battery power to heat up the arm, we’ll wait until early afternoon to move it out of the way. So we had to pick ChemCam and Right Mastcam targets that would not be obscured by the arm: A bright vein named “Snows Point” and a knobby-looking rock dubbed “Clam Ledge.” Navcam will then search for clouds and dust devils before the APXS is retracted from The Hop and more drill diagnostic tests performed. The Navcam surveys are part of an ongoing Environmental Science Theme Group (ENV) campaign to meticulously search for dust devil activity in Gale Crater. It is important to maintain a regular cadence, because as the location of the rover and thus surface topography changes, the size and number of dust devils can change. In concert with the imaging, simultaneous REMS measurements can detect pressure drops if vortices travel over or near the rover. This set of observations is needed to constrain model simulations and is an excellent example of two different instruments working together to improve our understanding of the meteorology of Gale Crater and dust lifting processes on Mars as MSL traverses up Mount Sharp. ENV also plans to repeat the Mastcam optical depth measurement and Navcam cloud movies that will be taken early in the morning of Sol 1645, to check for diurnal variability. A Mastcam afternoon sky survey is also planned, to characterize dust in the atmosphere. Today’s drive will be followed by the post-drive imaging needed to plan contact science and another drive this weekend.
by Michael Battalio (ENV Science Theme Lead) and Ken Herkenhoff (SOWG Chair)

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