HomePlanetSo Lengthy and Thanks for All of the Clouds

So Lengthy and Thanks for All of the Clouds



Because the saying goes, the whole lot that has a starting has an finish. Many college students in my lab have had the chance to work on the Curiosity mission during the last ten years and it has been one of many nice joys of my profession to see these college students develop into succesful and assured colleagues trusted by their friends the world over who work with them on the mission. However, inevitably, college students full their levels or transfer on to different initiatives and alternatives. For Charissa Campbell, a PhD scholar who has been engaged on the mission since 2016 she has a chance to steer the science case for an instrument known as MAPLE that might contribute to Environmental Science in a future planetary mission.
(Animation Above: the solar units at Gale Crater on Sol 312 of the mission)

By Charissa Campbell 

Over the previous 5 years, I’ve been part of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL, Curiosity) group, particularly the Environmental working group (ENV). The ENV group is answerable for managing any environmental observations which incorporates any cloud or mud satan imaging. Throughout my time with the group I acquired the chance to assist plan a number of sols (Martian day) of operations. This contains advocating for various ENV observations which are used to characterize the surroundings round Curiosity’s location, Gale Crater.

Our analysis group helps keep completely different ENV observations that use the Navigation Cameras (Navcams) to watch atmospheric aerosols. This contains the Zenith Film (ZM, an eight body film observing motion straight above the rover), Supra-horizon Film (SHM, an eight body film wanting above the horizon), Line of Sight (LOS, a single picture capturing the crater rim), Section Operate Sky Survey (PFSS, 9 three body films observing aerosols at quite a lot of pointings) and Cloud Altitude Statement (CAO, 2 eight body films aspiring to seize cloud and shadow movement). The primary three (ZM, SHM, LOS) have been part of the mission for a number of Mars Years (MYs) and are nice for monitoring cloud and mud over the course of a MY. The PFSS and CAO are on the newer facet and are solely carried out within the cloudy season. The newest cloudy season simply completed and now we’re making ready for the mud season which brings elevated mud and dust-devils within the crater.

Once I first began on the mission, I helped keep the cadence of the ZM and SHM. This contains advocating their cadence (each 2-3 sols) and preserving an eye fixed out for any aerosol exercise. The cloudy season on Mars may be very constant 12 months to 12 months so it’s comparatively simple to foretell once we’d anticipate to see extra exercise. Coming as much as my first cloudy season, I discovered a pair of early morning films that captured wispy clouds like Mares’ Tails seen right here on Earth (proven beneath). The distinctiveness and sweetness of those clouds earned a press launch (https://mars.nasa.gov/assets/8866/clouds-sailing-overhead-on-mars-enhanced/?website=msl). Since I used to be nonetheless recent on the mission, I used to be excited and anxious for the chance. It acquired loads of press and I loved studying the varied feedback left by the general public.



Over the following few years I continued to advocate for ENV observations however I used to be additionally given the chance to assist develop a brand new statement. On sol 1787 a Mud-Satan Film (DDM) was aimed toward Mt. Sharp (Aeolis Mons) and as an alternative of capturing dust-devils, it noticed shadows shifting throughout the mountain. This was attributable to clouds shifting overhead which was confirmed by the ZM that adopted. A DDM pointed at Mt. Sharp posed a singular alternative to measure the direct velocity and altitude of the overhead clouds by figuring out how briskly the shadows transfer with respect to the mountain. Digital Terrain Fashions (DTMs) have been created for Mars which give an x, y, z coordinate for each level in Gale Crater. By noting the place on the mountain the shadow begins and ends between the primary and final frames, a velocity might be calculated. When a paired ZM is used to calculate the angular spacing and velocity of the clouds above, we are able to get the speed and altitude of the clouds. Sometimes, this parameter is discovered utilizing a lidar which was demonstrated by the Phoenix lander (https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/photographs/press/Lidar_Fall_Streaks_SD_001.html). Nevertheless, Curiosity isn’t geared up with a lidar so we should use various approaches to calculate altitude.

Taking what we realized concerning the DDM and ZM mixture, we went forward and created the CAO. Inside this mother or father statement is the Cloud Shadow Film (CSM) and ZM. The CSM can be the DDM however optimized to deliver out shadows. This contains growing the body measurement for extra mountain protection. This body measurement was additionally utilized to the ZM. As soon as the CAO was optimized , it was examined on Curiosity earlier than changing into an official statement that the ENV group can plan. As of right this moment, now we have formally accomplished 3 MY value of CAO knowledge.

Analyzing the latest set confirmed a singular pair of shadow and clouds that weren’t seen earlier than in a CAO. Proven beneath, each films present turbulent clouds with massive shadows that move over the rover earlier than going up the mountain. I made a decision to showcase this set at the latest Curiosity group assembly the place I confirmed my cloud altitude outcomes. The films gave the impression to be successful that they turned a press launch  (https://mars.nasa.gov/assets/26557/curiosity-captures-drifting-clouds-on-dec-12-2021/?website=msl). It made me extraordinarily glad to have one other set of films launched by JPL. I shall be leaving the Curiosity group within the subsequent few months to deal with my different PhD initiatives, so it’s bittersweet to start out and finish my time on the mission with a press launch.


It’s been an important honour to work with Curiosity knowledge and particularly assist develop an statement that may proceed to be captured in future cloud seasons. I wish to thank the Curiosity group and all the present and previous PVL members which have helped me. Good luck Curiosity! I hope you’ve got many extra cloudy seasons on the horizon. 



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