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Emily LakdawallaJanuary 23, 2012

Dusty girl

Today Opportunity sent back to Earth the last few frames of the "deck pan" self-portrait she took during the waning days of 2011. Her solar panels are very dusty, which isn't helpful. It's near winter solstice in her southern location on Mars, so the angled Sun is not providing as much power as it would in a different season. That's why she's parked for a while to take it easy. She's not idle; she's shooting a panoramic photo of her surroundings, just a few frames each day, while she does some slow, paitent work with the aging Mössbauer spectrometer and other tools on her robotic arm.

Opportunity Deck Pan, December 2011 (sols 2811-2814)

NASA / JPL / Cornell

Opportunity Deck Pan, December 2011 (sols 2811-2814)
Opportunity used its Pancam to take the images combined into this mosaic view of the rover. The downward-looking view omits the mast on which the camera is mounted. Heading into its fifth Martian winter, Opportunity's solar panels were dustier than ever, requiring the team to choose an area of high northward tilt to increase power.

For those of you who are asking the inevitable, probably most Frequently Asked Question of the rover mission: why didn't they include a dust wiper on the rovers? Here's a good answer.

Read more: mission status, pretty pictures, Mars, Mars Exploration Rovers, Opportunity

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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