In the few days since NASA’s Curiosity rover touched down in Gale Crater on Mars, we’ve already seen some truly amazing shots from the surface of our ruddy celestial neighbor. Now NASA has upped the bar yet again by releasing the first full-color panorama taken of Curiosity’s landing site.
The shot is composed of 130 different images, each 144 x 144 pixels, all taken by the rover’s Mast Camera in late Martian afternoon on Wednesday, August 8th. NASA notes that the image has also been brightened during processing, since Mars doesn’t receive nearly as much sunlight as our homeworld does. They also provide a little context as to exactly what we’re seeing.
Scientists will be taking a closer look at several splotches in the foreground that appear gray. These areas show the effects of the descent stage’s rocket engines blasting the ground. What appeared as a dark strip of dunes in previous, black-and-white pictures from Curiosity can also be seen along the top of this mosaic, but the color images also reveal additional shades of reddish brown around the dunes, likely indicating different textures or materials.
I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty incredible when you really consider what you’re looking at. It’s been exciting seeing Curiosity inspiring interest and passion in people this past week. Who knows? Maybe one of the bright-eyed kids looking with wonder at these pictures will someday be the first human to step foot on Mars.
You can click over to NASA’s website to look at bigger versions of the panorama.