The Curiosity rover is continuing to recover from a couple of computer glitches, and it may be another day or two before resuming full time science operations, so things have been rather quiet lately. Other than of course the big press conference last Tuesday where it was announced that Curiosity has confirmed a previous habitable environment in this area from a long time ago.
In the meantime, mission scientists have released a stunning new panoramic image of Mount Sharp, the rover’s ultimate destination in Gale crater. The richly layered mound rises about 5 kilometres (3 miles) above the surface, and is taller than almost all of the mountains in the United States.
The origin of Mount Sharp isn’t known yet, but the lower slopes and layers are thought to have been associated with water, which would fit with the other findings that Gale crater was likely once a lake and rivers from outside the crater eroded through the crater walls and emptied into the lake. Curiosity has already found one ancient riverbed and bedrock (on the former lake bottom) that was once covered by water.
The panorama is composed of dozens of telephoto images taken on sol 45 (September 20, 2012). There are two versions, the first showing the scene in natural colours while the second has been white-balanced to show the terrain as if it were on Earth. Both versions, and various sizes, can be seen here. The largest versions show the layers, hills and buttes of the mountain in amazing detail!
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