Why does outer space look black?

Science

Livescience.com 26 June, 2021 - 06:00am 62 views

A lack of light has little to do with it.

Surprisingly, the answer has little to do with a lack of light. 

"You would think that since there are billions of stars in our galaxy, billions of galaxies in the universe and other objects, such as planets, that reflect light, that when we look up at the sky at night, it would be extremely bright," Tenley Hutchinson-Smith, a graduate student of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), told Live Science in an email. "But instead, it's actually really dark." 

What color is the sunset on other planets? 

How long would it take to walk around the moon?

Why is space a vacuum?

The reasons for the additional brightness, which remain unknown, will be the focus of future studies. Until then, one thing seems likely: Space could very well be more "charcoal" than pitch-black.

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How NASA’s Perseverance Rover Takes a Selfie

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 26 June, 2021 - 11:04am

Mars helicopter takes it to the limit with groundbreaking flights

CNN 26 June, 2021 - 11:04am

Updated 6:50 PM ET, Fri June 25, 2021

Watch how NASA’s Perseverance Rover takes a selfie

CNET Highlights 26 June, 2021 - 11:04am

Perseverance's Selfie with Ingenuity

JPLraw 26 June, 2021 - 11:04am

How NASA's Perseverance Rover Captured Its Iconic Selfie | Digital Trends

Digital Trends 26 June, 2021 - 09:07am

Now, NASA has revealed more information about how a rover captures a selfie, including video and audio of the rover getting ready for its big photoshoot.

The image was taken using the WATSON camera, which is, delightfully enough, part of the SHERLOC instrument which sits at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. SHERLOC is designed to investigate minerals on Mars, using methods like spectroscopy as well as images. The WATSON camera takes close-up images of rock textures to help identify geological features.

That means WATSON can’t take a photo of the whole rover at once, as it’s too zoomed in. So to create the selfie, the rover team took 62 individual images of different parts of the rover and stitched them together into a mosaic. But that meant the camera had to take all of the images from different angles, which required the arm to move around considerably — which is why it took more than an hour to capture all the required images. And it took a whole team of NASA scientists working for a week to process and present the image in its final form.

The selfie isn’t only for fun. It also gives the engineers a way to check on the rover, to make sure everything looks healthy and there isn’t any wear and tear. In addition, they used the rover’s onboard microphones to record the sound of the arm moving, which can also help provide a check of the rover’s health.

But one of the selfie’s most important jobs is to inspire interest in Mars exploration. One of the members of the rover team, Vandi Verma, Perseverance’s chief engineer for robotic operations, said she was inspired to work at NASA because of images from early Mars missions. Now she has helped to created selfies from both the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers.

“I got into this because I saw a picture from Sojourner, NASA’s first Mars rover,” Verma said. “When we took that first selfie, we didn’t realize these would become so iconic and routine.”

Copyright ©2021 Designtechnica Corporation. All rights reserved.

Watch (and Hear) How NASA's Perseverance Rover Took Its Epic First Selfie on Mars

SciTechDaily 26 June, 2021 - 05:28am

This shows the sequence in which NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took 62 individual images with its WATSON camera, on April 6, 2021, before they were stitched together into a single selfie. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Ever wondered how Mars rovers take a selfie? Color video from NASA’s Perseverance shows how the rover captured the historic April 6, 2021, image of itself beside the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. As a bonus, the rover’s entry, descent, and landing microphone captured the sound of the arm’s motors whirring during the process.

Selfies allow engineers to check wear and tear on the rover. But they also inspire a new generation of space enthusiasts: Many rover team members can cite a favorite image that sparked their interest in NASA.

“I got into this because I saw a picture from Sojourner, NASA’s first Mars rover,” said Vandi Verma, Perseverance’s chief engineer for robotic operations at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Verma worked as a driver for the agency’s Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, and she helped to create Curiosity’s first selfie, snapped on October 31, 2012. “When we took that first selfie, we didn’t realize these would become so iconic and routine,” she said

Video from one of Perseverance’s navigation cameras shows the rover’s robotic arm twisting and maneuvering to take the 62 images that compose the image. What it doesn’t capture is how much work went into making this first selfie happen. Here’s a closer look.

Perseverance’s selfie came together with the help of a core group of about a dozen people, including rover drivers, engineers who ran tests at JPL, and camera operations engineers who developed the camera sequence, processed the images, and stitched them together. It took about a week to plot out all the individual commands required.

Everyone was working on “Mars time” (a day on the Red Planet is 37 minutes longer than on Earth), which often means being awake in the middle of the night and catching up on sleep during the day. These team members sometimes passed up that sleep just to get the selfie done.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 feet (3.9 meters) from the rover. This image was taken by the WASTON camera on the rover’s robotic arm on April 6, 2021, the 46th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

JPL worked with Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) in San Diego, which built and operates the camera responsible for the selfie. Called WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering), the camera is designed primarily for getting close-up detail shots of rock textures, not wide-angle images. Because each WATSON image covers only a small portion of a scene, engineers had to command the rover to take dozens of individual images to produce the selfie.

“The thing that took the most attention was getting Ingenuity into the right place in the selfie,” said Mike Ravine, Advanced Projects Manager at MSSS. “Given how small it is, I thought we did a pretty good job.”

When images come down from Mars, the MSSS image processing engineers began their work. They start by cleaning up any blemishes caused by dust that settled on the camera’s light detector. Then, they assemble the individual image frames into a mosaic and smooth out their seams using software. Finally, an engineer warps and crops the mosaic so that it looks more like a normal camera photo that the public is used to seeing.

Like the Curiosity rover (this black-and-white video from March 2020 shows how it takes a selfie), Perseverance has a rotating turret at the end of its robotic arm. Along with other science instruments, the turret includes the WATSON camera, which stays focused on the rover during selfies while being angled to capture a part of the scene. The arm acts like a selfie stick, remaining just out of frame in the final product.

Commanding Perseverance to film its selfie stick in action is much more challenging than with Curiosity. Where Curiosity’s turret measures 22 inches (55 centimeters) across, Perseverance’s turret is much bigger, measuring 30 inches (75 centimeters) across. That’s like waving something the diameter of a road bike wheel just centimeters in front of Perseverance’s mast, the “head” of the rover.

JPL created software to ensure the arm doesn’t collide with the rover. Each time a collision is detected in simulations on Earth, the engineering team adjusts the arm trajectory; the process repeats dozens of times to confirm the arm motion is safe. The final command sequence gets the robotic arm “as close as we could get to the rover’s body without touching it,” Verma said.

They run other simulations to ensure that, say, the Ingenuity helicopter is positioned appropriately in the final selfie or the microphone can capture sound from the robotic arm’s motors.

Along with its entry, descent, and landing microphone, Perseverance carries a microphone in its SuperCam instrument. The mics mark a first for NASA’s Mars spacecraft, and audio promises to be an important new tool for rover engineers in the years ahead. Among other uses, it can provide important details about whether something is working right. In the past, engineers would have to settle for listening to a test rover on Earth.

“It’s like your car: Even if you’re not a mechanic, sometimes you hear a problem before you realize something’s wrong,” Verma said.

While they haven’t heard anything concerning to date, the whirring motors do sound surprisingly musical when reverberating through the rover’s chassis.

A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

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NASA Shows How the Mars Perseverance Rover Took its First Selfie

PetaPixel 25 June, 2021 - 03:39pm

Back in April, the Mars Perseverance rover shared a selfie that included the Ingenuity helicopter drone on the surface of the Red Planet. The space agency has now shared a video and detailed explanation of how that photo was taken, including the fact it is made up of 62 individual images.

NASA explains that the point of the selfie isn’t just to show off to folks back on Earth and perhaps inspire new generations of space enthusiasts, but actually is a way for the engineers to check wear and tear on the rover.

In the video clip above, the results of Perseverance’s robotic arm can be seen as it maneuvered to take the 62 images that compose the finished image. What it doesn’t capture is how much work went into making this first selfie happen. In a separate video below, Vandi Verma, Perseverance’s Chief Engineer for Robotic Operations, explains.

“The way you and I might take a selfie is by holding a camera up with our arm and taking a single image,” she says. “The way the rover takes a selfie is a little more complex than that.”

The rover uses its’ WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering) camera that is positioned at the end of its robotic arm. The main purpose of this arm is to allow the rover to take close-up images of rocks for scientific analysis.

“Even with the arm fully extended, it can’t cover the entire rover in a single image,” Verma explains. “To capture the entire rover, we take multiple images and then stitch them together.”

The image below shows a computer simulation of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover taking its first selfie. The point of view of the rover’s WATSON camera is included to show how each of the 62 images were taken. Those photos were later sent to Earth and stitched together into the selfie.

The team tries to hold the camera in the same position for each shot, and to do so it actually may mean that the arm has to move quite a lot.

“It can take up to an hour of arm motion and imaging to take that entire selfie,” Verma says. “The reason you don’t see the robotic arm in the selfie is that it is moving in between the different image frames that we are taking and we include enough overlap between the images so that when we stitch them together, we don’t have to include the arm.”

In the video clip above where Verma explains how the photo was taken, she also notes that for the first time, a Mars rover also has a microphone equipped, which allows them to share the sound of the rover moving its arm and taking each frame.

“The thing that took the most attention was getting Ingenuity into the right place in the selfie,” said Mike Ravine, Advanced Projects Manager at MSSS. “Given how small it is, I thought we did a pretty good job.”

Once the photos were compiled and sent back to Earth, image processing engineers began their work. They had to clean up any blemishes caused by dust that had settled on the camera, assemble the images into frames with a mosaic and smooth out their seams with software, and finally warp the crops so that it looks more like a normal camera that the public is used to seeing.

While a selfie on Earth is made by a single person, the Perseverance’s selfie took an entire team of people and almost an entire week.

NASA's Perseverance rover shot 62 images for its iconic selfie with Ingenuity | Engadget

Engadget 25 June, 2021 - 02:51pm

Lots of people ask: how do rovers like me and @MarsCuriosity take our own selfies? It’s not as easy as a quick smartphone snap. See how it’s done with the help of my team back on Earth: https://t.co/SL7nQkYh91 pic.twitter.com/Uzcne5RiTa

The way NASA tells it, the process was complicated and time-consuming. It involved about a dozen experts, including a variety of engineers, to pull everything off, and about a week to plot all the commands they had to send to Perseverance to make the final shot happen. The reason it took 62 images to produce the final photo was because NASA used Perseverance’s WATSON camera for the composition. The instrument was primarily designed to take close-up images of rocks, not expansive wide-angle shots. Since WATSON is mounted to Perseverance’s robotic arm, NASA also had to take care the appendage didn’t bump into the rover while positioning the camera.

To that end, NASA engineers developed software that allowed them to simulate each arm movement so that they could get it as close to the rover as possible without damaging it. They also ran simulations to figure out how to position Ingenuity in the composition. “The thing that took the most attention was getting Ingenuity into the right place in the selfie,” said Mike Ravine of Malin Space Science System (MSSS), which built the camera NASA used to capture the selfie. “Given how small it is, I thought we did a pretty good job.”

Once NASA had all the images it needed for the selfie, MSSS engineers went about cleaning up each individual one to remove any blemishes left by dust that had settled on WATSON’s light detector. They then stitched them together into a mosaic before cropping and warping that image into the one we all know and love today.

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NASA's InSight Mars lander might die by April if it doesn't get a significant energy boost

Yahoo News 25 June, 2021 - 09:12am

InSight's solar panels are covered in dust and the robot is about to hibernate to save power.

The team leader says the mission will "likely" end as energy declines in spring, SpaceNews reported.

See more stories on Insider's business page.

NASA's InSight lander may not survive another year on Mars.

The $800 million robotic science station landed in a Martian plain called Elysium Planitia in November 2018. Since then, it has detected more than 500 Mars quakes, felt more than 10,000 dust devils pass by, and started to measure the planet's core. But over the last six months, InSight has been facing an energy crisis, since dust is building up on its solar panels.

On other Martian plains where NASA has landed robots, gusts of wind typically sweep the dust away. But Elysium Planitia is unusually wind-free. So now the InSight team is preparing to shut off the lander's science instruments to save power as Mars moves further from the sun in the next two months.

By pausing its scientific operations, the lander should be able to save enough power to keep its systems warm through the frigid Martian nights, when temperatures can drop to minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

But according to SpaceNews reporter Jeff Foust, an InSight mission leader told NASA's Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group on Monday that even if InSight survives the upcoming cold months, energy levels will start to drop again by April. That's because more dust is likely to swirl through the Martian atmosphere and settle on the solar panels.

"Unless we get a fairly significant increase in our solar array output, we're likely to end our mission sometime around that time next year," Bruce Banerdt, the mission's principal investigator, said in the group's meeting, according to Foust.

InSight's solar panels are already about 80% obscured, and their daily energy production has dropped from nearly 5,000 watt-hours to less than 700 watt-hours, Banerdt said, according to Foust.

As Mars moves back towards the sun in August, the InSight team expects that the robot will be able to absorb more sunlight, produce more energy, and power its science instruments back up - for a time.

InSight completed its first mission in 2020, two years after landing. But the robot was still in good health, so NASA extended funding for another two years. However, the dusty air Banerdt expects to come in April may cut the lander's life short.

To shed the dust on InSight's solar panels, the team first tried instructing the lander to shake the panels, but it didn't work. So the engineers got creative: They began instructing the robot to scoop up dirt and slowly trickle it next to the solar panels. The thinking was that some of the large grains of sand would get caught in the wind, bounce off the solar panels, and take some stubborn dust with them.

It worked - a little. The first attempt added about 30 watt-hours to daily energy production.

"This has bought us a little bit of headroom that we didn't have before," Banerdt told the NASA group, according to Foust.

For now, the InSight team is trying to collect as much data as possible before turning off the lander's science instruments. The lander's star device, the seismometer, will be the last instrument to shut down and the first to power back up. This is prime time for detecting Mars quakes, since dying winter winds mean less interference.

"We're hoping to keep the seismometer going as long as we can, then start it up again - you know, after we pass this low-power time - turn it on as quickly as we can," Banerdt previously told Insider. "But we will probably be missing some things in between."

Read the original article on Business Insider

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Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Aces Eighth Flight - ExtremeTech

ExtremeTech 25 June, 2021 - 07:30am

Perseverance deployed Ingenuity earlier this year.

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