MECA-OM Images

OK, the first MECA Optical Microscope images are down.

First, I am pleading with any "lurker" who knows how to read the product_id for OM images to post a description:

I have been able to figure out the RGBU LED notation ( 3rd character from the end) BUT:

How can we know:

  • the sample substrate
  • the LED light direction during the exposure

I played with the images to get:

a panorama:


Say, that "looks like" a drop of a clear liquid with a high surface tension in the upper right! Naaaah. ( subsurface?)

And here is a tribute to the MECA team:

And, finally, a kind'a weird picture on a different subsurface:


I am guessing this was lit with the RGB LEDs on the botton of the picture -- but I'm totally unsure.

The UV illumination sequence makes no sense to me.

If I understand correctly, the CCD is not sensitive to the UV light, so only objects that reradiate in the visible should be visible. But in fact the entire field of view is visible with UV illumination?

Maybe this substrate is made of a florescent material? If so, why don't the bright dust particles in the Green image block the light from the substrate?

I am soo confused...

Good eyes Horton,
Depending on what we are looking at it could be consistent with a clear drop magnifying the underlying surface. IMHO

Very interesting, I wouldn't assume that to be liquid water since the temperature range on Mars is fairly low. I dont believe that there are any other liquids on the surface / in the atmosphere of Mars.

I have some questions:

What are these pictures of? What is the microscope looking at?

Where is this picture taken? Is it a picture of the sample in the scoop?

Can the sample be heated?


I accidentally posted this in another thread, anyway:

"Hold on, there cannot be any liquid water on mars due to the low pressure, perhaps the sample medium can also be pressurized?"

UV lights are often used in mineralogy. I think UV vflouresecence is the main reason. Rock hounds use UV lights of specific wavelenghts to easily pick out minerals they are looking for at night. I imagine phoenix has UV illumination for the same reason.

max, all good questions.

The optical microscope is part of the MECA package. samples are input to the MECA package by a rotating sample wheel with 10 sets of 6 different substrates.

I suspect the tests are looking at either "calibration" substrates or "bucket" substrates.

I would suspect that the "wet chemisty beakers" are pressurized ( Mars, you know ) -- but I don't know that for a fact.

All the .pdf papers googled on various sites describing the technical details of MECA are strangely unresponsive.

Perhaps the little clear drop is an interplanetary joke played by the creaters of the sample wheel.

The FAMARS part of MRCA will be a new scale of Mars exploration.

"The Optical Microscope can receive soil material from the digging site via the scoop. In a first place this material is dropped on various targets (magnetic, non-magnetic, textured or sticky targets) of a particular sample holder, the so-called SWTS (Sample Wheel Translation Stage). Then the SWTS is translated and rotated such that the delivered material can be imaged by the Optical Microscope. These images provide information on color, grain size (down to

This makes it clear. I bet these are calibration pictures that we are looking at, since the scoop hasnt been "used" yet.

Animation of sol 4 OM test:

This animation puzzles me. What exactly> is being imaged?

I an guessing that some of the dark spots are dust on some protective plate between the OM and the samples, and some of the straight dark filaments with shadows are some unknown fibers caught on the other side of the plate.

But what are the small, bright raised blobs of material on the substrate -- especially what is the short rod shaped blob center left?

There appears to be a complex network of raised linear features ( not depressions ) all over the substrata.

What is this substrate -- and what does the expected image look like?

Sure would like to see an "official" version with explanation of these images.

Be warned that there are a lot of GIF color artifacts in the animation.

Again, Where are the OM raw images?

( Like Cato The Elder who ended all his speeches speeches with Carthago delenda est, I will end mine with "Where are the OM raw images"? )

I think the image at reply 7 is the rotating sample wheel (SWTS) to deliver samples to the optical and atomic force microscopes taken with the afm. Did you find the page here with limited information on substrates ("ten sets of six materials" is kinda vague)but apparently they can apply different polymers and clean them up when they are done. They have some good sample images as well.
I agree with max that this most likely is a calibration sequence.

I don't get it sigh...

Again, Where are the OM raw images?

OM images:

Another source for raw images (although no OM yet):

The last link from curious1 seeems to be avery nicely laid out site. Although when you say "raw", they appear to be just compressed jpg junk. Not realy RAW's, no RAW converters, Wait, i'm getting caught up in deja vu. ok, i feel better now, thank you NASA for sharing these images with us.

Have they used the optical microscope yet horton?

Er, I have not made myself clear.

The only raw images posted were from test images from sol 4 ( seen in reply 0 and again in reply 7 ) - yet the OM was used on sol 9 to create this image -- according to the press release.

Where are the sol 9 OM raw images?

Sol 17 OM:


No raw OM images posted... depressing... just depressing.

Wonder what the oval shaped particle is un the upper left corner?

Yes, what is that oval particle?
What is that filament to the lower left of the oval particle? It's well over 1/2mm long (nearly 1 mm if you could straighten it out).
Maybe it's a primitive insectoid guarding it's egg?
A grain of quartz next to a filament from the lander?
Naturally occurring minerals?

The scale bar at the lower left is 1 mm long.
Pretty neat seeing that kind of resolution.
Look at all of the particles less than 0.075mm in diameter! Typically particles less than 0.075mm in diameter are considered silts and clays (on Earth).
Silt and clay on Mars, right before our eyes!

Others are also wondering about where they are hiding the raw OM images:

Here is a 2x version of reply 15 created from the NASA TIF version for those of you who wish to examine the image in detail but are too lazy to download the original.

We will see the original raw images when the powers that be are absolutely sure there is nothing interesting to see that they haven't already seen.

I hope to live that long.

The blue candlestick on the left hand side(middle) is the most interesting feature of all. I've been convinced for a long time that these are living things connected to the canisters, which contain some type of silvery liquid. We ran over one with MER, remember? The fact that it appears blue is interesting, also. They're not imaginary, and it's becoming more and more obvious.

When we go to blow these candles out, and we will eventually, do you suppose that we will find that these things have a protector of some kind?