Mars rover Opportunity is still silent because of a dust storm on Mars
These two photos taken by Curiosity on May 21 (left) and June 17 (right) show how different the current light level of Mars, in the atmosphere of which a dust storm is raging, is from the normal situation.
On Mars, for many weeks now a dust storm has been raging that has covered almost the entire planet. Because of it, the Opportunity rover does not receive the necessary amount of sunlight, which is converted by photocells into electricity. The rover went to sleep and could not get out of it until the atmosphere cleared of dust and the sun's rays did not reach the surface of Mars.
When this happens is still unclear, since the scale of the storm only increases, it seems that in the near future it will not weaken. “We haven't been able to contact the rover for a couple of weeks,” says Ray Arvidson of the University of Washington. He is one of the leaders of the Mars Exploration Rover mission , which initially included the twin brother Opportunity - the Spirit rover. Both rovers arrived on Mars in January 2004 and together began to explore the surface of a neighbor of the Earth.
Opportunity has been working for many years, and would have worked further if it were not for the strong dusting of the rarefied atmosphere of Mars. On the graph below you can see how the dustiness of the air affects the amount of energy received by the rover. The system produces so little energy that it cannot make and send to the Earth a photograph of what is happening around it. The last picture was taken by scientists on June 10 of this year. Rover occasionally "wakes up" in order to check the energy reserves. If they are too small, the rover again goes to sleep.
As for the Spirit, this rover, unfortunately, ceased to show signs of life on March 22, 2010.
Some time after the storm subsides, the Opportunity must wake up, and if there is enough energy, the Earth will receive its signal. Then, when the mode of obtaining energy becomes optimal, the rover will return to work again, and who knows how many months or years it can still work.
Its "elder brother" Curiosity works in the normal mode, because it has an autonomous power source on board. He regularly sends pictures of Mars. The photographs taken by this apparatus after the start of a dust storm can be seen that objects on the surface do not cast shadows. This is because the
Scientists believe that the Opportunity rover will survive the bad weather and in a few weeks will be pleased with new data on the Red Planet.