NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit acquired this microscopic imager view of its capture magnet on sol 92 (April 6, 2004). Both Spirit and the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity are equipped with a number of magnets. The capture magnet, as seen here, has a stronger charge than its sidekick, the filter magnet. The lower-powered filter magnet captures only the most magnetic airborne dust with the strongest charges, while the capture magnet picks up all magnetic airborne dust. The magnets' primary purpose is to collect the martian magnetic dust so that scientists can analyze it with the rovers' Moessbauer spectrometers. While there is plenty of dust on the surface of Mars, it is difficult to confirm where it came from, and when it was last airborne. Because scientists are interested in learning about the properties of the dust in the atmosphere, they devised this dust-collection experiment. The capture magnet is about 4.5 centimeters (1.8 inches) in diameter and is constructed with a central cylinder and three rings, each with alternating orientations of magnetization. Scientists have been monitoring the continual accumulation of dust since the beginning of the mission with panoramic camera and microscopic imager images. They had to wait until enough dust accumulated before they could get a Moessbauer spectrometer analysis. The results of that analysis, performed on sol 92, have not been sent back to Earth yet.


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