A chapter of the layered geological history of Mars is laid bare in this postcard from NASA's Curiosity rover. The image shows the base of Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
NASA's curiosity rover is snapping high resolution pictures with a 100mm Mast Camera zoom lens aimed at Mt. Sharp, the eventual destination of the rover. It's like Wall-E with a laser beam and Hollywood film crew strapped to his head. Very cool stuff.
The image above is a smaller portion of a this photo. NASA scientists were nice enough to enhance the color to show the Martian scenescape under lighting conditions we Earthlings can recognize more easily.
The space agency points out that early photos coming back from the mission -- which is already gathering more data than any other mission -- show a landscape surprisingly similar to our own Grand Canyon.
What do you think? Does it make you want to take a trip out to to Arizona to see our own slice of extra-planetary wilderness?
The gravelly area around Curiosity's landing site is visible in the foreground. Farther away, about a third of the way up from the bottom of the image, the terrain falls off into a depression (a swale). Beyond the swale, in the middle of the image, is the boulder-strewn, red-brown rim of a moderately-sized impact crater. Farther off in the distance, there are dark dunes and then the layered rock at the base of Mount Sharp. Some haze obscures the view, but the top ridge, depicted in this image, is 10 miles (16.2 kilometers) away. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Before NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars, the strata exposed in Mount Sharp were compared to those in the Grand Canyon of the western United States, shown here. Now that the rover has arrived, scientists are surprised by just how close the similarities between the two terrains are. The lower reaches of Mount Sharp form a succession of strata as thick as those exposed in the Grand Canyon, and with a diversity of colors to match, complete with buttes and mesas. The major difference is that the strata of the Grand Canyon are exposed along a great valley, whereas the strata of Mount Sharp are exposed along the flanks of a great mountain. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Mars images from NASA here.