SCIENCE ON THE WING

Promoting Science and Science Education

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Calibration Targets

I’ve seen them referred to as “eyeshadow”, “paint” and “whatever those are” but in truth,  they are an important part of the Mars Science Laboratory’s science mission: calibration targets.

One of the cal targets onboard Curiosity; the colored targets are doped silicone rubber                     photo credit: NASA/JPL

In the shake, rattle and roll of liftoff, flight and, in the case of Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory, seven minutes of terror as it falls to the planet’s surface, things can shake loose, degrade over time or stop working altogether.  Calibration activities remain the best way to assure data collected are correct.

When conducting science remotely, it’s important that scientists are sure of what they are looking at and of various findings they make.  In other words it’s one the ways scientists can say “how we know what we know”.  The best way to achieve this is by including a well-known and characterized source to check your data against.  These  are referred to as calibration targets or cal targets.

There are many types of cal targets and infinite uses for them from calibrating the white balance on your digital SLR camera to telling a spacecraft light-years away that indeed, what it is looking at is white or, it is blue not white or that the chemical signature we are seeing is cadmium, which shows up as a particular color in the spectrum.

Whatever the composition of the target, the process is the same; a reading is taken from the cal target, from the subject and often from a third source.  The readings from each of the sources are compared against each other and if they are in agreement, the instrument is correctly calibrated.  If there is disagreement, data from each source is analysed to determine the location of the error.

Pondering My Belly

I iz checking out my BELLY! Curiosity checks out her belly pan. Result = A-OK good for go.

Although it may seem inconsequential, it’s very important for Curiosity to methodically go through all of her vital systems prior to embarking on the journey of her lifetime.  A hole in her belly pan or a small piece of gravel wedged into a joint could spell disaster for a Rover.

Pondering my belly

Pondering my belly. What?!! No navel?                     photo credit: NASA/JPL

What’s happening?!!

Here’s hoping that you all can survive the laborious process of me moving content over to the SOTW page.  There will be duplicates of things you’ve already read however, I am building up to new and current content.  For now, thanks for hanging in there and I hope to wow you with content as time goes on.

Third Rock ON!       Ms. Winger

Rover Family Portrait

NASA’s Curiosity Studies Mars Surroundings, Nears Drive

Still Life With Rover

From the Ames Research Center Facebook site:Image

“This full-resolution self-portrait shows the deck of NASA’s Curiosity rover from the rover’s Navigation camera. The back of the rover can be seen at the top left of the image, and two of the rover’s right side wheels can be seen on the left. The undulating rim of Gale Crater forms the lighter color strip in the background. Bits of gravel, about 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) in size, are visible on the deck of the rover.

This mosaic is made of 20 images, each of 1,024 by 1,024 pixels, taken late at night on Aug. 7 PDT (early morning Aug. 8 EDT). It uses an average of the Navcam positions to synthesize the point of view of a single camera, with a field of view of 120 degrees. Seams between the images have been minimized as much as possible. The wide field of view introduces some distortion at the edges of the mosaic.
The “augmented reality” or AR tag seen on the rover deck, in the middle of the image, can be used in the future with smart phones to obtain more information about the mission.”

From the twitter feed of my favorite Astrophysicist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson:

“@neiltyson: Enough on Mars. Must get back to making Earth hotter, cutting science budgets & killing each other over religious differences”

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Promoting Science and Science Education

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SCIENCE ON THE WING

Promoting Science and Science Education