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This image, taken by an instrument called the microscopic imager on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, reveals an imprint left by another instrument, the Moessbauer spectrometer. The imprint is at a location within the rover wheel track named "Middle of Road." Both instruments are located on the rover's instrument deployment device, or "arm."
Not only was the Moessbauer spectrometer able to gain important mineralogical information about this site, it also aided in the placement of the microscopic imager. On hard rocks, the microscopic imager uses its tiny metal sensor to determine proper placement for best possible focus. However, on the soft martian soil this guide would sink, prohibiting proper placement of the microscopic imager. After the Moessbauer spectrometer's much larger, donut-shaped plate touches the surface, Spirit can correctly calculate where to position the microscopic imager.
Scientists find this image particularly interesting because of the compacted nature of the soil that was underneath the Moessbauer spectrometer plate. Also of interest are the embedded, round grains and the fractured appearance of the material disturbed within the hole. The material appears to be slightly cohesive. The field of view in this image, taken on Sol 43 (February 16, 2004), measures approximately 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) across.
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