Martian Landscapes

By: Skyzics , 1:58 AM GMT on September 15, 2012

Some fantastic images are coming in from the Curiosity Rover located in Gale Crater and heading across various terrains to the base of Mt Sharp, the 15,000-foot central mountain peak in the middle of the crater.

Here are a few of the images:


The above view is toward the base of Mt Sharp in natural Mars light, as if you were on the surface with your digital camera taking a photo.


The above view is the same image, but with the white balance adjusted to be the same as Earth light, or as if the brightness and light quality we see on the Earth was also shining on the surface of Mars. Geologists and researchers like this adjustment because, like everyone, they are used to analyzing landscapes and geographic features in 'Earth light,' not 'Mars light.'

The different terrains are remarkable. The foreground is like an old alluvial fan of rocky debris. Beyond a nearby depression it looks like there are extensive areas of bedrock exposed. Beyond that, dark sand dunes are evident. And beyond that, apparent sedimentary rock strata and perhaps water-eroded features at the base of Mt. Sharp.


Here is the Curiosity Rover still at the landing sight. The depressions nearby are from the rocket thrusters of the 'sky crane' that accomplished the final drop of the rover. Rock debris on the top surface of the rover was blasted out from the nearby rocket thruster depressions. The mountains in the background are part of the rim of Gale Crater. The views of the crater rim mountains often appear hazy, depending on how far away they are, due to small dust particles suspended in the thin atmosphere. The various atmospheric effects are remarkable considering that the Martian atmosphere only offers a surface pressure of 6 to 7 thousandths, or significantly less than 1/100th that of sea level on Earth.


Mt. Sharp from the landing site with two thruster marks on the ground seen nearby. The distant, background mountains are the rim of Gale Crater.


Enhanced zoom view of the lower reaches of Mt. Sharp. Dark sand dunes are visible along the base. The rover will have to travel some distance to a break in the dunes to reach the lower slopes of Mt Sharp, where layers of apparent sedimentary strata can be closely examined.

This is one bone dry looking place, once again, but newer discoveries show that significant deposits of water ice lie a very short distance below the dusty surface across much of the planet.


Here is a view looking north toward the rim of Gale Crater. In the distance, a lighter colored zig-zag near the base of the distant rise, lies an apparent ancient water course meandering down below the mountainous terrain. While the Curiosity rover is not going to visit this area, NASA hopes to get better views of it from higher terrain as it explores the lower slopes Mt Sharp.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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2. Skyzics
11:48 AM GMT on September 15, 2012
Your welcome, Susie. These are fascinating, exciting images, aren't they? I just posted one more of the ancient water course visible at the base of the Gale Crater rim several miles to the north of the rover.

I agree with your idea of contacting 'the Congress creatures' and letting them know of my actual approval on something. However, I have little doubt that, as in other areas, the budget slashers are working away at planned cutbacks, to be announced following the election. Now might be a timely opportunity to send letters of support to our Congressional 'representatives' with regard to NASA's unmanned program of solar system exploration (that is, much less expensive than manned) and its spectacular scientific prowess.
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1. Susie77
11:33 AM GMT on September 15, 2012
I can't look at these photos w/o getting goosebumps. How lucky we are to live in a time that brings us such technological achievements -- paintings of the surface of another world.

We often contact our congress creatures when we are unhappy about things. This inspires me to contact mine to express my satisfaction with NASA and our space program, and urge them to continue to support this research and discovery when budget talks come up.

Thank you for this post!
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