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MAHLI capabilities
Seryddwr
post Oct 16 2011, 09:45 AM
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Forgive what may seem a silly question from one whose grasp of this type of thing is less than perfect:

What are the possibilities (not probabilities!) of MAHLI being able to detect the biosignatures for which MSL is looking as part of its mission goals? What might such biosignatures look like on a microscopic scale? I gather that, even at its highest resolution, most microfossils would at best appear only the size of a pixel or two. Any info on this would be greatly appreciated.
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Astro0
post Oct 16 2011, 01:21 PM
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Note from self:
<Admin mode> "Seryddwr, let's not stray into areas noted under rule 1.3" </admin mode> wink.gif


Google is always our friend smile.gif

Your best information on MAHLI's capabilities are going to be found right here in the:

MSL Science Corner and the MSL Website Instrument pages.

From the MSL Science Corner:
Image Resolution. The MAHLI design permits imaging over a range of spatial scales between about 13.9 microns/pixel and infinity. Malin Space Science Systems follows a strict definition for resolution of in-focus images wherein the optical blur circle is equal to or less than one pixel across. Acquiring images with 13.9 micron per pixel under actual operational conditions on Mars will likely be challenged by as-yet unmeasured uncertainties in the ability to place the camera using the robotic arm.
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Seryddwr
post Oct 16 2011, 07:26 PM
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Well, I was trying not to...! - but I take your point. It's good to know what a great improvement on the resolution of Spirit and Opportunity's instruments MAHLI will be.

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Eutectic
post Oct 16 2011, 08:35 PM
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From the MSL Science Corner:
Image Resolution. The MAHLI design permits imaging over a range of spatial scales between about 13.9 microns/pixel and infinity.


There's a chart here: http://www.h2odistributors.com/chart-particle-sizes.asp showing the size of common inorganic and organic particles. The rover won't have the luxury of imaging polished flat surfaces that one can do in laboratories on Earth, and with which one can go to higher resolutions. The electron microprobe I used in school had a coincident optical microscope with sub-micron resolution; it was easy to see the effect of the electron beam, which was something over a micron wide. Clay particles are smaller than 2-4 microns, too small for MAHLI, but all sand grains and some silt particles should be within its capabilities.
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