The Stain - Page 3

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Posts: 344

Reply: 41

PostPosted: December 10, 2010 3:54 PM 

It is difficult to reconcile any form of the dust-removal idea with the point that Horton emphasized:


One would have to assume that the bright metallic areas in question have somehow become dark while underneath the light-colored dust, during the course of the mission. One would also have to account for the light-colored elevated points that seem to be "peeking" through the stain, and the apparent "lumpiness" of the stain. Kye's points about the spreading cleanliness are also compelling.

All in all, it seems more likely that the stain involves the presence of dark material rather than the absence of light material. I think a decent stereo view of the wiring area might clinch this case.

Since the stain has been more or less stable for several sols now, I wonder if it would be possible to average or use super-resolution on multiple navcams to get a better view?

If in the future the stain enlarges to where it is seen to entirely cover the elevated wire, it would also positively exclude the cleaning idea.

Kye Goodwin

Posts: 1166

Reply: 42

PostPosted: December 11, 2010 12:17 PM 

First, I'm still a little stunned by our receiving communications from members of the rover team. OK, they didn't exactly post to the Mars Rover Blog but here they are among us, kind of, none the less. I've thanked Stan and Barsoomer for there successful efforts and I'd also like to thank Bruce Banerdt, Jim Bell, and Steve Squyres just in case they find this unlikely corner of cyberspace.

I've thought of what is to be done to squeeze more information out of the records but I'm not too likely to put in the effort myself. My question is: How does the history of the stain line up in time with the history of the general dustiness of the rover? Are the disappearances of the stain synchronized with increases in dust generally? Are the reappearances of the stain synchronized with cleaning events? Maybe dust movements cover and uncover the stain but this is largely irrelevant - it just keeps growing by an independent process as dust comes and goes. Then again, it has been revealed to have grown most dramatically when reappearing after a period of invisibility. That's another way maybe to squeeze more out of the data: Answer the question, Has the stain grown faster (in say mm/sol) when hidden or when continuously visible? To my memory, its the former.

Is the stain made of overlying dark material or is it the deck revealed? It could be both. Most materials that thin would tend to be semi-transparent.

Psych Author Profile Page

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Reply: 43

PostPosted: December 11, 2010 1:48 PM 

Hello all. First post here.
As much as I want this to be some kind of growth on the rover, studying the calibration target images from Sols 2312 to 2314 seem to show a shiny spot on the deck. I'm thinking that perhaps a thread of something, maybe related to the delamination of the sundial ring is blowing in the breeze and sweeping that area of the deck clean.
The thread would be too fine to resolve at the cameras resolution and, if it were in motion due to the wind, it would not be resolved at all.

Sol 2313 L246 False Color:

Sol 2313 R2R1 False Color:

All of these images are backlit.


Posts: 14

Reply: 44

PostPosted: December 11, 2010 6:48 PM 

I don't buy the no dust explanation.
If it were dust being blown, you would see the whole thing getting covered one day, and another place being uncovered the next, rather than an actual progression of the stain.
I know I am limited to Earth Bound observations, but wind reacting with dust over 100s of days, would simply not act like that.



Posts: 344

Reply: 45

PostPosted: December 11, 2010 10:23 PM 

Good point, Stan. This is what we observed. A column-like wave of darkening spread leftward from the base of the sundial platform. This stopped advancing at some point and became stable. Then light-colored dust was blown over the dark area, cutting it into two pieces. (This sudden event coincided with an overall cleaning that increased power to the rover.)

This seemed to reactivate the darkening process. The leftmost remaining dark piece began to expand again to the left. At the same time, a new wave of darkening spread rapidly leftward from the sundial platform. This overtook the other remnant piece and the dark area became connected again. It then extended all the way to the wire associated with a solar panel.

It now covers a portion of an apparent flat metallic electric contact, and also covers an apparent plastic retainer on the contact, except for three light-colored "eyes" that are isolated within the dark area and appear to be high points of the plastic retainer. The electric contacts and plastic retainers were bright areas on the early rover that sharply contrasted with the dark deck and panel areas.


Posts: 344

Reply: 46

PostPosted: December 16, 2010 4:51 PM 

Stereo view of the stain with low back-lighting. Looks a bit different from the frontlit views.


Posts: 14

Reply: 47

PostPosted: December 17, 2010 6:06 PM 

I have decided to write back to Bruce Banerdt.
I'd like people to give me what they think are the best arguments for why the stain is not dust cleared off of the rover by the wind. Please make your comments succinct and give any supporting evidence such as pictures data analysis etc. I want to get across the most information in the least possible amount of words.



Posts: 344

Reply: 48

PostPosted: December 17, 2010 10:41 PM 

Stan, I'm not sure this is the right time to make the case, while people are distracted by Santa Maria. After Oppy leaves the crater and starts the long, possibly boring trek to Endeavour, there may be better opportunities, especially if the stain expands again.

Having said that, I think two of the most convincing arguments are

(1) the fact that the stain covers bright areas of the rover deck as superbly illustrated by Horton's

animation, which compares the clean deck on Sol 13 to the recent stained deck.

(2) the sharp-edged profile of the stain. Cleaned areas should have more diffuse boundaries.


Posts: 344

Reply: 49

PostPosted: December 17, 2010 10:46 PM 

I can't seem to get the "Grab the html code" to work for me---nothing happens when I click on it.

Here is another try at getting the link to Horton's work that I intended



Posts: 14

Reply: 50

PostPosted: December 19, 2010 5:57 AM 

Okay, I'll wait.



Posts: 344

Reply: 51

PostPosted: December 20, 2010 6:57 PM 

I've been reading about high dynamic range imaging techniques. Apparently, it provides a way to combine multiple images to show more detail. I wonder if this could be used with multiple navcams of the stain, some of which are over-exposed and others under-exposed?

There is also some interesting stuff about the Frankencamera, a Stanford University site that offers some Linux-based open software for image processing, although this seems more oriented towards controlling a camera rather than just processing images.


Posts: 344

Reply: 52

PostPosted: December 20, 2010 7:00 PM 

I've been reading about high dynamic range link imaging techniques. Apparently, it provides a way to combine multiple images to show more detail. I wonder if this could be used with multiple navcams of the stain, some of which are over-exposed and others under-exposed?

There is also some interesting stuff about the Frankencamera link, a Stanford University site that offers some Linux-based open software for image processing, although this seems more oriented towards controlling a camera rather than just processing images.


Posts: 344

Reply: 53

PostPosted: December 21, 2010 11:51 PM 

Post 51 was held for approval; post 52 was not.


Posts: 3465

Reply: 54

PostPosted: December 26, 2010 8:15 AM 

sol 2445-2456 changes:

Looks like the stain is on the move again after the rover turned to face east again.

Most likely the wind is blowing from the west.

Barsoomer, the rules for flagging comments as "spam" are arbitrary and bizarre.


Posts: 344

Reply: 55

PostPosted: December 27, 2010 2:08 AM 

Horton's image in reply 54 is very interesting. The total area of the stain appears to have been preserved in the transition. But the amount of cohesion seems to have increased; for example the upper right boundary is now sharper. If this is a fixed amount of dark material that is blowing around, then there has to be some attractive force between the particles that compose the stain.


Posts: 344

Reply: 56

PostPosted: December 27, 2010 4:37 PM 

One odd thing (that Horton has previously pointed out) is that movements of the stain appear to not be correlated with movements of the reddish dust. If both types of movements are caused by the wind, then there would seem to be two different types of wind, one that blows the dark dust and one that blows the red dust!


Posts: 344

Reply: 57

PostPosted: December 27, 2010 5:49 PM 

Images of what is now the stain area when the rover was at Burns cliff in Endurance. The shadowing shows well the elevations of the small knobby protuberances on the deck that now peek through the stain.

These are crops taken from tiffs at



Posts: 1661

Reply: 58

PostPosted: December 27, 2010 9:57 PM 


please provide the times for the 2 images in your 54 above. Thanks


Kye Goodwin

Posts: 1166

Reply: 59

PostPosted: December 28, 2010 12:08 AM 

The Stain is growing in length much faster than any terrestrial lichen. There are lots of Earth organisms that grow this fast but in rich circumstances compared with Mars. The rapid growth makes me doubt the simplest sort of biological explanation, that the stain is the thallus of an organism.

The Stain first appeared on two sides of the sundial platform:

The little bit on the far side disappeared. The area around the origin of the Stain on the left edge of the platform has been overall a relatively dark and persistent part of the stain since it appeared. Maybe the life is under the platform, and the spreading stain is something it creates that is fairly insubstantial. Waste? Gametes? A solar energy collection network connected to the nest? We are "through the looking glass" once we think it is life.

The Stain is kind of like the slope streaks too, in that it is dark, lobed now, and appears to emerge from the subsurface. Hmm, But this sure can't be the right habitat for a slope streak if my vapour seep idea is right.

I'm sure glad something appears to be growing on Oppy. It maybe got aboard at the last big oasis, Victoria Crater. It might turn out to be our best shot at alerting the authorities to the presence of life. It is sure getting bigger fast, maybe even exponentially, so there is hope.


Posts: 3465

Reply: 60

PostPosted: December 28, 2010 6:49 AM 

dx, I have added the L2 exposure Local Solar Times to the Flickr comments of the animation in reply 54.

Why did you want to know the times?

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