NASA’s Curiosity rover has gotten pretty familiar with the Martian terrain by now, capturing hundreds of photos of the red planet since it landed on Mars in 2012. But every now and then, the rover catches Mars at just the right angles.
Curiosity recently captured a rare panoramic view of Mars’ Mount Sharp, which the mission team then turned into a picture-perfect Martian postcard by combining different images and even adding color.
The result is a captivating view of Mars that will make you want to pack your bags and make the 232 million mile trip to the neighboring planet.
Here’s the background — The Curiosity rover landed on Mars on August 6, 2012, and has been roaming the Martian terrain ever since.
NASA sent the car-sized robot out on a two-year mission to determine whether Mars ever had the proper environmental conditions to support life during its early history. But more than nine years later and Curiosity is still at it, collecting crucial evidence that provides scientists with clues regarding Mars’ potentially habitable past.
Curiosity followed in the tracks of its predecessors Sojourner, Opportunity, and Spirit, and was recently joined by the Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars on February 18, 2021.
Aside from performing some serious science on Mars, Curiosity is also known for capturing flattering selfies and stunning views of the red planet.
Curiosity snaps a 360-degree view of its surroundings each time it completes a drive on Mars using its black and white navigation cameras.
Most recently, while exploring Mount Sharp, Curiosity took this awe-inspiring shot of the mountainous terrain of Mars:
On November 16, Curiosity snapped two composite images of the view from Mars’ Mount Sharp. The rover snapped one at 8:30 a.m. and the other one at 4:10 p.m. local Mars time.
The mission team then combined the two composite images into one, with the different lighting from each bringing out the beautiful details of the Martian terrain. They then added coloring to the black and white image, highlighting elements from the morning scene in blue, the afternoon scene in orange, and a combination of both in green.
The image shows a view of the way back down Mount Sharp, which Curiosity has been driving up since 2014. Mount Sharp is the central peak in Mars’ Gale Crater that reaches up to three miles above the valley floor.
The mountain itself is made up of layers of sediment that have built up over time. This area contains clues as to how the Red Planet changed over time from possibly being a warm, wet, and potentially habitable world to today's dry, desolate, and dusty planet.