NASA Curiosity Rover Captures Spectacular Images of Mars Landscape

NASA's Curiosity rover has snapped spectacular new pictures of a mountainous landscape on Mars.

The images, which were published by the space agency on Tuesday, shows the rover's view from high up on a martian mountain called Mount Sharp. The car-sized vehicle has been exploring for the past few years.

Mission engineers commanded the rover to take the images on November 16, 2021. Using its navigation cameras, the vehicle took two composite images capturing the same scene in the morning and late afternoon local Mars time.

The idea behind taking two images at different times of day was made so that the rover's cameras could capture contrasting lighting conditions, bringing out different details from the landscape.

The team then combined the two scenes in an artistic reinterpretation that contains elements of the morning and evening shots.

The rover's navigation cameras, which help it to explore the martian surface, only take pictures in black and white.

So, the team also colored the artistic interpretation image to highlight the beauty of the scene—although the colors do not accurately represent those that the human eye would see on the surface of the red planet.

Mars image captured by NASA Curiosity rover
A colorized image created using photos captured by NASA's Mars Curiosity rover on Mount Sharp on November 16, 2021. NASA/JPL-Caltech

The images show the rover's view down the slopes of Mount Sharp, a three-mile tall mountain that Curiosity has been driving up since 2014.

At the far-right of the image, observers can see the "Rafael Navarro Mountain," named after a Curiosity team scientists who passed away earlier this year.

Curiosity has been exploring the red planet and gathering scientific data for almost a decade, having touched down on August 5, 2012.

Mars Curiosity afternoon image
The black-and-white image taken by Curiosity in the martian afternoon. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Since it landed on the red planet, Curiosity—not to be confused with NASA's latest Mars rover Perseverance—has snapped more than 855,000 images using its various cameras.

Many of the most stunning photos have been taken by the color Mastcam instrument, which has far higher resolution than the navigation cameras.

The images taken by these navigation cameras are kept in a compressed, low-quality format, to make it easier to send them back to Earth.

Curiosity reached the outskirts of Mount Sharp in September, 2014, and has been steadily climbing upwards ever since. The data it is collecting could help to cast light on Mars' transition from what scientists think was once a relatively warm and wet world to the arid planet we know today.

Mount Sharp is located within the massive Gale Crater—a 96-mile-wide basin formed by an ancient collision. The rim of the crater, which stands at 7,500 feet tall, is visible the horizon around 18 to 25 miles away.

Mars Curiosity morning image
The monochrome image taken by Curiosity in the martian afternoon. NASA/JPL-Caltech