This animation shows the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity digging a hole in the ground at Meridiani Planum, Mars. The rover scraped its front right wheel back and forth across the surface six times by rotating its whole body in place. At the end of each sweep, the wheel changed the direction it was spinning to shove excess dirt out of the way. The resulting trench is about 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) long by 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) wide by 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) deep.
The rover's instrument deployment device, or arm, will begin studying the fresh soil at the bottom of the hole later today for clues to its mineral composition and history. Scientists chose this particular site for trenching because previous data taken by the rover's miniature thermal emission spectrometer indicated that it contains crystalline hematite, a mineral that sometimes forms in the presence of water. The brightness of the newly-exposed soil is thought to be either intrinsic to the soil itself, or a reflection of the Sun.
This movie is composed of images taken by the rover's hazard-avoidance camera.