In the wake of a massive dust storm on Mars, NASA's Curiosity rover returned diligently to its job to collect surface samples.
On August 9, just over two weeks after the storm officially began to subside, the explorer collected a rock sample and captured a 360-degree view of its surroundings in Vera Rubin, revealing a thin layer of dust that it still floated in the air.
The breathtaking panorama reveals an immersive look into the spooky brown sky, with glimpses of Mount Sharp and ancient features of the lake bed, and a selfie of the Mars rover.
Meanwhile, NASA's other rover, Opportunity, remains silent for more than two months after crouching in the dust storm.
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On August 9, just over two weeks after the storm officially began to subside, the explorer collected a rock sample and captured a 360-degree view of its surroundings in Vera Rubin, revealing a thin layer of dust that it still remained in the air.
Curiosity captured the panorama and the selfie using her Mast Camera. Previous rover drilling attempts were thwarted by unexpectedly hard rocks, according to NASA, so the latest collection was a welcome surprise.
Vera Rubin Ridge, where Curiosity is currently investigating, has perplexed scientists since its discovery.
The region varies a lot in color and texture in everything, in a way never before seen.
"The ridge is not this monolithic thing, it has two distinct sections, each of which has a variety of colors," said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"Some are visible to the eye and even more appear when we look in the near infrared, just beyond what our eyes can see." & # 39; Some seem to be related to how hard the rocks are & # 39;
To find a good place for drilling, the team simply has to make a conjecture.
So far, says NASA, this seems to be working. Scientists suspected that the cornice of the ridge may include harder rock, while the lower spot may be softer.
The breathtaking panorama reveals an immersive look into the spooky brown sky, with glimpses of Mount Sharp and ancient features of the lake bed, and a selfie of the Mars rover. Curiosity captured the panorama and selfie using her Mast Camera
With its new sample, Curiosity will be able to study the pulverized rock in its internal laboratories, to reveal which material holds the crest together against the erosion of the wind.
While Curiosity works perfectly, the status of the rover Opportunity is still unclear.
Opportunity was silent in June, unable to power its solar battery, as the dust was still blocking the sun.
Engineers involved in the mission initially had the hope that the robotic Mars explorer would wake up once the storm subsided, but after more than two months of silence, they recently admitted that morale is "unstable."
In an effort to keep the spirits high and inspire the mobile vehicle to wake up, the team even created a thematic playlist with a new song to start each Martian day from the control room.
So far, the list includes 18 songs, from "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham! And "Here comes the Sun" by The Beatles to "Keep Yourself Alive" by Queen.
The Panoramic Camera of Opportunity (Pancam) took the images of the components of this view from a position outside the Endeavor Crater during the period between June 7 and June 19, 2017.
HOW OFTEN DOES THE POWDER STORMS HAVE ON MARS AND WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS TO SEE IT?
Dust storms frequently occur on Mars, but the global events surrounding the entire planet appear every six or eight Earth years, equivalent to three or four years on the red planet.
MailOnline spoke with Dr. Robert Massey, executive deputy director of the Royal Astronomical Society, for his advice on how to witness this extraterrestrial meteorological event.
He said: "Observing Mars is always a challenge, since it is small, about half the size of Earth, and at its closest point is still about 34 million miles (55 million km) away.
& # 39; It is easily visible to the eye like a bright red object in the sky, but seeing any detail requires a reasonable telescope and the binoculars will not show too much.
"Even with that, the details are fleeting and depend on a stable terrestrial atmosphere since otherwise the turbulence erases the view.
"This is the reason why the first Martian observers spent a lot of time making many sketches to try to map the surface of the planet.
"A good time to look is when Mars is close to its opposition, the point at which the planet is opposite the sun in the sky and near its minimum distance from Earth.
"The opposition in 2018 is July 27, and the closest approach to Mars is July 30.
"As it gets dark at night, you should look for a bright red object in the southeast sky."
"With a decent telescope, observers can see the polar caps growing and shrinking and the dust storms described above, which can quickly change from being local features to planetary events."
Opportunity has not taken a single look since June 10, and it's not clear when the phone will wake up, if it does.
Late last month, NASA said it would only have 45 more days to contact Opportunity. Beyond that, the agency says that the rover will probably never recover.
"The Sun is breaking the haze on Perseverance Valley, and there will soon be enough sunlight for Opportunity to recharge its batteries," said John Callas, Opportunity's project manager at JPL, in late August.
& # 39; When the level of tau [a measure of the amount of particulate matter in the Martian sky] Falls below 1.5, we will begin a period of active attempts to communicate with the rover by sending commands through the antennas of NASA's Deep Space Network.
"Assuming we receive news from Opportunity, we will begin the process of discerning your status and bringing it back online."