Mars rover snaps first nighttime photo

Jan. 24, 2013 at 8:24 PM

PASADENA, Calif., Jan. 24 (UPI) -- NASA says its Mars Curiosity rover has taken its first nighttime photos of the Red Planet's surface, using both white and ultraviolet lights of its instruments.

Scientists used the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager instrument for a close-up nighttime look at a rock target called "Sayunei," in an area where Curiosity's front left wheel had scuffed the rock to provide fresh, dust-free materials to examine, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported Thursday.

The Curiosity science team said the photos were taken in the area where they expect to instruct the rover to drill into a rock in coming weeks.

The lens imager, or MAHLI, is an adjustable-focus color camera, and carries its own LED illumination sources in both white light and ultraviolet light wavelengths.

"The purpose of acquiring observations under ultraviolet illumination was to look for fluorescent minerals," said MAHLI Principal Investigator Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego. "These data just arrived this morning (Thursday).

"The science team is still assessing the observations. If something looked green, yellow, orange or red under the ultraviolet illumination, that'd be a more clear-cut indicator of fluorescence."

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