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Thursday, September 8, 2005

Planetary Fourier Spectrometer is Broken

The Planetary Fourier Spectrometer
The Planetary Fourier Spectrometer
Credit: ESA
Mars Express's Planetary Fourier Spectrometer was designed to measure the absorption of sunlight through the atmosphere. This would enable scientists to study temperature profiles and the composition of the atmosphere. The PFS would have given us clear results in the mist of many varying results. The results are important because methane only last about 100 years in the Martian atmosphere and would need to be replenished. How often, by how much, and if the Methane is localized are important factors in deciding how it is produced.

The problem with the PFS is that because of the spacecrafts vibrations a pendulum that is responsible for collecting light is not smooth in its swing. Ludmilla Zasova, who leads the Russian Scientists who worked on the PFS says that stopped working in July. Vittorio Formisano, or Rome, is in charge of the craft and will not says that it is broken, but rather that he is working on it. So far scientists have been able to filter out some of the noise.

(More info: Nature)

- posted by Jim @ 9:31 EST