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Curiosity’s new image reminds us that Mars is truly a beautiful place

Mosaic color image captured by NASA's Curiosity rover on November 16, 2021.

Mosaic color image captured by NASA’s Curiosity rover on November 16, 2021.
Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech

It can be very cold, deprived of breathable oxygen and incinerated by deadly radiation, but Mars has an undeniable charm. The new image, taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover and colorized by mission team members, bears witness to the Red Planet’s aesthetic splendor.

To be clear, this image is not a true depiction of how the scene will be viewed with human eyes. V news releaseNASA describes it as an “artistic interpretation” created by members of the Curiosity mission who were “overwhelmed by the wide landscape.” According to NASA, the image is a blend of two black and white photographs taken at different times on a Martian day, providing “contrasting lighting conditions that brought out a lot of landscape detail.”

THe said: “I cannot imagine that this view, seen from the height of Mount Sharp, would be less impressive if seen in the flesh.” Curiosity has been climbing this mountain for the last seven years, and its Look The Martian landscape only gets better the higher it rises.

Indeed, the rover’s current perspective has a lot to offer, including a stunning view of the crater rim stretching along the horizon. Mount Sharp rises about 18,000 feet (5.5 km) from the bottom of Gale Crater, a 96-mile (154 km) wide crack formed by an ancient collision. According to NASA, at 7,500 feet (2.3 km), the rim of the crater is visible on the horizon from 18 to 25 miles (30-40 km).

View from Mount Sharp at 8:30 am local time on November 16, 2021.

View from Mount Sharp at 8:30 am local time on November 16, 2021.
Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech

And look at these rounded hills in the center on the right, or at that patch of rippling sand called “The Sands of Forvi” as seen in the center of the image. To the right of the image is Mount Rafael Navarro, a rugged rocky geological feature named after a Curiosity team member who recently passed away.

This mosaic took shape somewhat unexpectedly. Curiosity captures a 360-degree panorama each time it completes a ride using its black and white navigation cameras (the gorgeous color images we are used to seeing are captured by the rover’s Mastcam). Images captured by navigation cameras are more useful and are recorded in a compressed format to make subsequent transmission of data to Earth less burdensome.

View from Mount Sharp at 4:10 pm local time on November 16, 2021.

View from Mount Sharp at 4:10 pm local time on November 16, 2021.
Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech

However, this particular view was too special to be ignored. Thus, Curiosity was tasked with taking two photographs, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, which it took on November 16, 2021. The team wanted to take advantage of contrasting light. Tints of orange, blue and green were then added, allowing the team to “imagine the scene seen at different times of the day,” according to NASA. Blue represents the morning look, orange represents the afternoon, and green represents a combination of both.

Curiosity continues to amaze despite the fact that he is now a gray-haired Mars veteran. NASA’s Perseverance rover, with its brilliant suite of new instruments and aerial satellite, is getting the most Attention these days, but Curiosity – on Mars since 2012 – still has a lot to offer.

More: Rover Perseverance is filming a stunning video of a helicopter flying over Mars.

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