Scientists doing work with the Curiosity rover applied a piece of its navigation equipment—an accelerometer like the 1 in your cellphone—in buy to make an crucial measurement about Mars’ mysterious geology.
Curiosity is at present roving close to Mount Sharp, a five-kilometer-large (3-mile) mountain in the centre of Gale crater. But it is unclear no matter whether the mountain is the consequence of the crater when currently being loaded in and getting rid of make a difference to erosion, or whether or not the mountain is much more like a large dune of deposited substance. Curiosity does not possess a scientific instrument to identify the mother nature of the mountain—but it does have drive-measuring navigation gear. So the scientists bought creative.
“I recognized you can obtain an application on your telephone and, not with considerably precision, but you can evaluate [the force of Earth’s gravity] mainly because your cell phone has accelerometers,” the study’s lead author Kevin Lewis, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins College, told Gizmodo. He figured he could do the exact issue with Curiosity’s accelerometers, and accomplish some exciting science.
Gravimetry, or precisely measuring variations in the neighborhood gravitational area, is a valuable way to understand the rocks beneath the area, due to the fact an object’s drive of gravity raises with its mass. Apollo seventeen had a gravimetry experiment to examine the Moon, for example—but Curiosity does not have a gravimeter. It does have a navigational system, even so, which features gyroscopes and an accelerometer for measuring variations in velocity, acceleration, and orientation.
The navigational method isn’t fairly as sensitive as a gravimeter would be, but the scientists made do. They obtained the facts on the accelerations knowledgeable by the rover, then altered it to account for points like Curiosity’s location on Mars as well as prospective results of temperature and elevation on the tools.
Their evaluation discovered a surprise—the average density of the rocks beneath Curiosity was decreased than predicted. This implied that the grime was considerably additional porous, this means it had extra holes, than the scientists envisioned. They were further more equipped to infer that the sediment would not be quite deep, given that normally it would be a lot more compacted or crammed-in.
All of these details collectively seem to indicate that Mount Sharp wasn’t the end result of erosion generating a tall peak, but as a substitute it shaped through sediment blowing into the previously-shaped crater ensuing in the huge deposit, in accordance to the paper printed today in Science.
“My very first perception was that it’s a intelligent engineering trick to use devices onboard the rover that weren’t designed as science instruments to actually do science,” Kirsten Siebach, Martian geologist and assistant professor at Rice University, explained to Gizmodo. She observed that the porosity benefit of the rocks was incredibly superior. She claimed the function seemed to validate some earlier observations of Gale crater but contradict others.
“This pushes us to get a superior being familiar with of what small-porosity rocks may possibly behave like on Mars,” she said.
Measurements like these occur with inherent limits, this sort of as the introduction of possible biases when hoping to decide out which info to use and uncertainties from utilizing an instrument for a task it was not designed for.
But this is science, and the paper reveals new details that gets us nearer to realizing what seriously may well be going on inside of the crater, and should really be considered alongside other experiments, simulations, and information. And there are much more experiments coming up to establish the physique of proof: Mars Perception will be equipped to notify scientists about the planet’s geology much more generally based mostly on how warmth flows via the earth, although Mars 2020 will have ground-penetrating radar to accumulate subsurface info on its landing area, Jezero crater.
It is not the first time we have heard of experts repurposing navigation equipment to do science—but this is a specially ingenious a person.
Lewis stated: “One of the items I seriously really like about this examine is that it is my form of science—finding new methods to use existing information and MacGyver-ing a manufacturer new science instrument.”