“When a geologist takes pictures of rock outcrops she is studying, she wants an object of known scale in the photographs,” said Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) Principal Investigator Ken Edgett, of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego.
This weekend mission controllers had Curiosity flip open the dust cap covering the robotic-arm mounted MAHLI, and Presto! No more fuzzy photos!
Think of MAHLI as the equivalent of a geologist’s magnifying lens, but infinitely more complicated. Its high-resolution capabilities can focus and magnify objects smaller than the width of a human hair.
MAHLI has both white light sources as found in a flashlight and ultraviolet light sources found in tanning lamps, enabling it to create images both day and night. The ultraviolet light will induce fluorescence to detect carbonate and evaporite minerals, both indicators that water may have helped to shape the Martian landscape.
Sources: DiscoveryNews, September 10, 2012 Space.com, September 10, 2012 NASA.gov, September 10, 2012 Daily MailOnline, September 10, 2012 All photo credits NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems