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NASA spots still-silent Opportunity rover on Mars

NASA's eye-in-the-sky orbiter snaps a distant look at the dusty rover.

We may not be able to hear anything from NASA's Opportunity rover, but we can still see it. 

The space agency's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught sight of the rover from far above the red planet. Opportunity has been out of contact with Earth since June 10 when a global dust storm cut off its solar power.    

NASA's Opportunity rover appears as a speck in the center of the square.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

The rover is sitting quietly in an area called Perseverance Valley. The MRO used its HiRise camera to find the rover, which looks like a tiny spot, on Sept. 20. The MRO was about 166 miles (267 kilometers) above the surface of Mars at the time.   

Opportunity first arrived on Mars in 2004 and has outlasted its original planned mission by many years. The dust storm disrupted the rover's scientific work and has left us wondering if it'll ever be able to communicate or function again.

The storm has now abated and NASA is attempting to contact the hibernating rover in the hopes it can recover from its long slumber and start up operations again. The space agency intends to listen for the rover at least into early 2019. 

"A key unknown is how much dust has fallen on the solar arrays," NASA notes. "The HiRise image shows some reddening of the surrounding area, suggesting dust fallout, but it is not possible to determine how much dust is on the arrays themselves."

Opportunity isn't NASA's only rover challenge right now. The agency is also working to figure out why the Curiosity rover is having trouble transmitting stored data. Curiosity's science work is on hiatus while NASA troubleshoots the issue.

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