Distant Horizons: MSL Shoots Panorama of Mount Sharp

The Mars Science Laboratory rover imaged one of its upcoming targets, Mount Sharp. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The Mars Science Laboratory rover imaged one of its upcoming targets, Mount Sharp. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

On the dusty plains of Mars, from her position in Gale Crater, the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity has snapped a picture of Mount Sharp. This mountain, which, according to a NASA news release, is taller than any within the contiguous United States, juts up from the center of the crater. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has released the two mosaic images below.

These mosaics are like jigsaw puzzles, and are assembled from a number of telephoto images taken with Curiosity’s 100-millimeter-focal-length telephoto lens camera. The lens is situated to the right of the rover’s sensing mast. Curiosity took this image on her 45th day on the Red Planet (Sept. 20, 2012).

Mount Sharp, also known as Aeolis Mons, rises some three miles (five kilometers) into the Martian sky from the crater’s surface. The lower slopes of Mount Sharp is one of the destinations planned for the rover during its planned two-year mission. For now the rover will spend a bit more time at “Yellowknife Bay.”

Two versions of the image were produced. One is white-balanced to make the terrain look like it would if it were under “Earth-like” lighting conditions (below).

The Mars Science Laboratory rover snapped this shot of Mount Sharp on Mars. The image was then modified to resemble as if it were taken under Earth-like conditions. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The Mars Science Laboratory rover snapped this shot of Mount Sharp on Mars. The image was then modified to resemble as if it were taken under Earth-like conditions. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The image below is what this vista looks like under natural Martian conditions. Note that the sky is not the blue that we are accustomed to here on Earth, but rather a butterscotch color.

This version of the panorama was developed to have it look like it would under natural Martian lighting conditions. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This version of the panorama was developed to have it look like it would under natural Martian lighting conditions. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

15 comments to Distant Horizons: MSL Shoots Panorama of Mount Sharp

  • Spectacular, awe-inspiring and incredible are just a few of the adjectives describing this photo. To imagine that human beings have the capability to see these vistas of another world is astounding!

  • Karol

    Very well stated Tom! We are so fortunate that of the 100,000 generations of humans who have walked this planet, we stand at the front of a line of our ancestors that would fill a football stadium and are able to see this “spectacular, awe-inspiring and incredible” vista. Not Ramses, not Alexander, not Caesar, not Napolean. Us. To think that last Saturday, 16 March, is the day that Robert Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket in 1926. The NASA engineering genius behind this vista is itself “spectacular, awe-inspiring and incredible”! Thank you Jason for publishing the vista as it would look under normal Martian conditions. If you can believe it, I have seen on another site that NASA-bashing howler monkeys have claimed that NASA faked the Curiosity landing because everyone knows that the Martian sky is not blue. Seriously. They must be the progeny of lunar landing deniers who can’t understand how a flag can appear unfurled on a lunar surface without wind. Time to clean the gene pool. Where is Buzz Aldrin with a good right hook when you need him? 🙂

    • Leonidas

      Oh Karol, please don’t get me started on the schizophrenic bozos and their conspiracy thinking, cause if I start thinking about it, my blood pressure will go up and I’ll want to start cracking some heads real hard!

      Anyway, half-kidding aside, I share your enthusiasm! I cannot put to words the magnificense of space exploration! I can only gaze with an open mouth!

      • Karol

        Leonides, Great to hear from you again my friend! Watch that blood pressure, your colleagues in the space community need you! Maybe a wee dram o’ good single malt scotch, or for our Greek brothers – ouzo! (For medicinal purposes only, of course 🙂 ) Best wishes always! Karol

        • Leonidas

          Thanks for the offer Karol, but I’d prefer some red wine! (Haven’t ever been a fan of ouzo really!). After all, wine is good for the heart 🙂

          What a blast would be to MEET with all the great people from AmericSpace (writers and readers) and have some talks and drinks together!

          • Leonidas

            (And sorry for the capitals. I’m not that good to that blind typing thing!).

            • Karol

              A “First Launch Of Orion/SLS” party sounds interesting. I know that Jim Hillhouse, Jason Rihan, Ben Evans, as well as Tom Vasiloff, Leonides and many others will be celebrating that momentous event returning this great nation to its proper place in human space exploration. As I’ve said, I’ve already set aside a top shelf bottle of single malt scotch for the celbration (and I’d probably bring along some good red wine too, as you said, it’s good for the heart 🙂 ) It’s a long trip from Greece to Cape Canaveral, but imagine a lifetime of “Yes, I was actually there . . . “

              • Leonidas

                That sounds like a terrific idea! I haven’t even thought about it, and you got me thinking! It could be possible. Being there, at the first Orion launch and sharing it with all the people that can appreciate it! Oh boy, I started drooling from excitement.

                You know Karol, being 30 something, doesn’t stop me from feeling like a small child in a candy store when it comes to things that really make me passionate about, so you would have to excuse me if I started running around, jumbing up and down with joy while being at the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex! 🙂
                (And I know for sure that I’d need at least $1.000 extra, for buying all the goodies I’d see, like souvenirs and memorabilia and I’d exceed baggage weight requirements at the airport by dozens of kilos!)

                Ok, child-like excitement mode off now! 🙂

                And to meet people and create new friendships. As you’ve said, the journey of a lifetime!

                You never know…

                • Leonidas

                  And to check out all the latin and salsa bars in the area! (Being passionate with dance and latin music as well!) 🙂

    • Tracy

      Karol,
      Do tell me as you sound like somebody that knows ….If I where standing on Mars is this a view that I would see? Is there that much light? Is this overexposed to make it brighter?…Enquiring Minds want to know!!!

      • Leonidas

        Tracy, the real-life photo of Mars, is the first one, under the article headline. Actually it’s a ‘raw’ image, meaning that it didn’t underwent any processing. If you were standing on Mars with your iPhone in hand, you’d take a photo like this.

        The second photograph with the blue sky in it, is a processed and white-balanced photo, to simulate Earth-like conditions and illumination on Mars. This helps geologists to identify interesting geologic formations for the rover to investigate, more easily.

        • Karol

          Excellent Leonides, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Your English is VERY good! All I can say in Greek is “Socrates”, “Plato”, . . . and ouzo. 🙂

          • Leonidas

            Haha, Karol, it’s enough for a start! 🙂 And I’m thrilled you know about Greek philosophers! And since you can spell it, I hope you like ouzo (I don’t). It goes well with spaghetti and octopus together (well, at least it’s a treat at taverns on most of the Greek islands at summer!).

            If we finally manage to make this ‘First Orion launch’ party all together, I’d be happy to help you expand your knowledge on Greek vocabulary 🙂

            • Karol

              I’d have to box my collection of books by our favorite author, Ben Evans, and UPS ship them to my hotel in Florida so I could get him to autograph them. That might not, however, be an easy task. Given that the launch will most certainly be an indescribably important event in the history of spaceflight, Ben would probably just be a blurr of frenetic, frantic, frenzied activity for a week before and a week after the launch as he absorbed and studied every detail of the event so as to preserve it for posterity. Thank you very much for your offer to expand my Greek vocabulary, maybe we can trade Greek for Chinese? Huo Jian (rocket). (note to self: get that program so that I can type Chinese characters.) Octopus and spaghetti might be on the menu near the launch site, Florida is quite the “melting pot”. I just hope the dish goes well with scotch! 🙂 (Come to think of it, just about anything goes well with scotch if you drink enough of it, I mean, how else does one explain haggis?).

              • Leonidas

                I spent a couple of months working in China, a couple of years ago, but didn’t have any luck with learning Chinese (and many of the Chinese people I dealt with didn’t speak English, so you can imagine how things went 🙂 ). So, I’d have to take your offer on helping me with Chinese language!

                Well, if Ben would be up to his head with covering the launch with frenzy, I’d be so busy absorbing everything while at the Florida Space Coast, with my mouth constantly open in awe, that you’d think I was born this way! 🙂 And I’d have to remind you constantly to stop me from buying literary every space memorabilia and gifts I’d come across 🙂

                On a more serious note, you really got me thinking about being there, to witness the first Orion launch. It would also be my first time in the States. I only hope that Greece will be a working country until then and everyone here will have survived the gutter that we have found ourselves into…