COLLOQUIUM: Exploring Mars With Curiosity and Its Laser
The ChemCam instrument on board the Curiosity Mars rover employs laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) to determine the chemical composition of rock and soil samples up to 7 m from the rover. Its Nd:KGW laser projects 14 mJ pulses at 1067 nm onto 350-550 µm spots, creating plasmas observed over the 240-905 nm wavelength range. Multivariate analysis algorithms are used to quantify and classify elemental compositions from the LIBS spectra. Integrated into the same instrument is the rover’s highest resolution remote imager, providing important context details.
Since landing in Gale crater in August, ChemCam has fired over 40,000 laser pulses, taking an equal number of spectra on several hundred samples. Initial targets consisted of alluvial gravels and conglomerates produced in a fluvial environment, along with varieties of igneous rocks not seen before on Mars. Observations in Curiosity’s current location revealed fine-grained sedimentary rocks that were infiltrated by fluids leaving abundant calcium sulfate veins. After presenting the ChemCam instrument and some details of the Curiosity rover, I will briefly describe our discoveries to date and their significance.
The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory 2012-2013 Colloquium Committee is comprised of the following people. Please feel free to contact them by e-mail regarding any possible speakers or topics for future colloquia.