NASA scientists spot silent Opportunity rover on Mars (Image: Twitter)
NASA has spotted its lost Opportunity rover on the Red Planet for the first time since it went into hibernation. Earlier, dust storm swept over the region a little more than 100 days ago and blocked sunlight from reaching the rover. A high-resolution camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured the image of the rover on the slopes of the Red Planet’s Perseverance Valley, NASA said in a statement.
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The image of the rover, taken on September 20, was produced from about 267 kilometres above the Martian surface. The image showed that the dust storm over Perseverance Valley has substantially cleared. NASA scientists estimated that the tau — a measurement of how much sunlight reaches the surface — over Opportunity to be a little higher than 10 during some points during the dust storm.
The higher the tau, the less sunlight is available. The tau has steadily fallen in the last several months. On September 20, tau was estimated to be about 1.3 by MRO’s Mars Colour Imager camera.
Opportunity will need a tau of less than 2.0 before the solar-powered rover will be able to recharge its batteries, according to scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
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Opportunity Rover, also known as Mars Exploration Rover, is NASA’s robotic rover active on Mars since 2004. It was launched on July 7, 2003 as a part of the NASA’S Mars Exploration Rover program, it landed at Meridian Planum on January 25, 2004. Opportunity has travelled 28 miles (45 kilometres) and found evidence of water on Mars and conditions that may have been suitable for sustaining microbial life.