Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vivid Close-Up Image Shows Curiosity and Mars From Space

Vivid Close-Up Image Shows Curiosity and Mars From Space:

This extremely tall photo taken from space shows Curiosity’s landing site and the stunning environment that the rover may explore over the coming year on Mars.
Ever since Curiosity landed last week, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been snapping pics of the rover from space. This latest shot, taken using the satellite’s HiRISE camera, is the first to capture Curiosity and the surrounding environs in vivid (false) color.
The northernmost part of the image, representing the area nearest to Curiosity, is fairly flat and uniform. The rover itself can be seen sitting in a discolored spot, surrounded by dust that was blasted when the sky crane’s rockets brought Curiosity down for a safe landing.
Farther south are enormous sand dunes and various geologic features that the rover may visit as it travels to the base of its eventual target: Mount Sharp. These colorful outcrops include hydrated minerals, clays, and sulfates that will help scientists unravel the complex watery history of Mars. Curiosity may be sitting atop similarly interesting features right now but dust obscures their view from orbit. With the rover on the Martian surface, geologists are eager to start probing that environment.
A person in orbit around Mars would not see this area in these colors — in reality the bluish regions are more of a gray color. HiRISE took the photo in infrared wavelengths, and the image was then enhanced to bring out subtle differences. Rocks tend to be bluer while dusty regions are redder. As well, rougher surface materials are redder, showing off the different textures that Curiosity may visit.
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona [Full-resolution 1500 x 13400 pixels]

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