National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
Multimedia
Curiosity Blasts Ground with Neutrons
Curiosity Blasts Ground with Neutrons (click to enlarge)
 
 

Curiosity Blasts Ground with Neutrons
Date: 21 Aug 2012

NASA's Curiosity rover pinged the ground with neutrons for the first time, a process called active neutron sounding, on August 17, 2012. The instrument involved, called the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons, or DAN, measures the amount of hydrogen -- an indicator of water -- in soil by observing the degree to which neutrons are scattered.

The red time profile shows neutrons that were emitted from the ground below Curiosity after the instrument's pulsing neutron generator hit the ground with pulses of neutrons having energies of 14 megaelectron volts. The blue line shows a pre-launch test of the instrument for comparison.

These data provide information about the content of water at the Curiosity landing site, and show that the instrument is in perfect shape for the first use of the neutron sounding technique in its interplanetary exploration. Later, when Curiosity is on the move, variations of the height and duration of this profile will indicate changes in the water content of the soil down to about 3.3 feet (one meter) below the surface.

The most likely hydrogen in the ground of Gale Crater is in hydrated minerals. These are minerals with water molecules or hydroxyl ions bound into the crystalline structure of the mineral. They can tenaciously retain water from a wetter past after all free water has gone.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech /Russian Space Research Institute



Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writer: Autumn Burdick
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> USA.gov
> ExpectMore.gov
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 21 Aug 2012