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Mars Science Laboratory

Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI)

Mastcam image of the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Curiosity's arm.

Second only to the rock hammer, the hand lens is an essential tool of human geologists. Usually carried on a string around the person's neck, the hand lens helps a geologist in the field identify the minerals in a rock. The robotic geologist, Mars Science Laboratory, carries its own equivalent of the geologist's hand lens, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI).

MAHLI provides earthbound scientists with close-up views of the minerals, textures, and structures in martian rocks and the surface layer of rocky debris and dust. The self-focusing, roughly 4-centimeter-wide (1.5-inch-wide) camera takes color images of features as small as 12.5 micrometers, smaller than the diameter of a human hair. MAHLI carries both white light sources, similar to the light from a flashlight, and ultraviolet light sources, similar to the light from a tanning lamp, making the imager functional both day and night. The ultraviolet light is used to induce fluorescence to help detect carbonate and evaporite minerals, both of which indicate that water helped shape the landscape on Mars.

MAHLI's main objective is to help the Mars Science Laboratory science team understand the geologic history of the landing site on Mars. MAHLI also helps researchers select samples for further investigation.

First Color Image of the Martian Landscape Returned from Curiosity
View of the landscape to the north of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity acquired by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on the afternoon of the first day after landing

Calibration Target on Curiosity for Camera on Rover's Arm
The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of the robotic arm of NASA's Curiosity rover uses a calibration target attached to a shoulder joint of the arm. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech