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5 Photos from Ten (Earth) Years of Curiosity

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The photographs that our robotic geologists (and robotic atmospheric scientists) carry again to us from different worlds assist us to narrate to those locations on a human scale. Nobody on the PVL have checked out extra pictures of Mars than Alex and so, who higher to take us on a visible journey down reminiscence lane on this auspicious anniversary?

By Alex Innanen

August 6th marks 10 (earth) years since Curiosity
(AKA the Mars Science Laboratory or MSL, as a result of house individuals love a very good
acronym) landed in Gale Crater on Mars. In case you’ve been across the weblog, you’ll
know that many PVL-ers have had the prospect to work on the mission (myself
included) and there have been a plethora of posts through the years about what
doing ENV operations is like
, or what
cool science MSL is doing
, or different large mission occasions, just like the 2018
world mud storm
or passing
2000 sols on Mars
. So as to add to this assortment, and to have a good time 10 years of
Curiosity (or 5 Mars years, a milestone reached this most up-to-date January), I’m
going to journey via a few of my favorite photos the rover has taken over
the previous decade.

First we’ve the above image, a
basic selfie
. Curiosity recurrently poses for MAHLI (the Mars Hand Lens
Imager) to take these self portraits, which are literally mosaics of tens of
MAHLI pictures. There’s a
unbelievable video
of Curiosity’s arm transferring round to get all the images
that make up a selfie. This explicit selfie was captured throughout the 2018
world mud storm, and you’ll see mud within the background obscuring the crater
rim. This is identical mud storm that heralded the top of Alternative’s
mission, however Curiosity got here via with numerous science (and nifty photos)
to point out for it.

Going all the way in which again in time to 2012, this
is a 360°
panorama
of Curiosity’s touchdown website, named ‘Bradbury’ for the sci-fi
creator Ray Bradbury. Proper within the centre of the image is Mount Sharp (or
Aeolis Mons), the mountain within the centre of Gale Crater. Mount Sharp is made up
of sediments laid down in Gale Crater over a protracted interval of Mars’ historical past, and
as Curiosity has climbed up it, it’s as if the rover has been travelling via
that historical past. However first it needed to get to the bottom of Mount Sharp, a visit which
took round 2 years trundling via the remnants of historical lakes and rivers.
I really like taking a look at this panorama as a result of it offers an amazing concept of how far
Curiosity has traveled – over 28 km and 600 m of elevation, now. It is also a
nice ‘large image’ shot – each new location Curiosity visits is (in my humble
opinion) beautiful and distinctive in its personal means, with a lot new and thrilling to
take a look at. This picture allows you to take a step again and take all of it in.

It could be remiss of me to not embody a cloud image, so right here
it’s
, my absolute favorite cloud shot. I could also be barely biased, as I used to be
on shift when this picture was deliberate, however it’s so dramatic, with the cliff face
(known as ‘Mont Mercou’) within the foreground and the glowing clouds behind. These
are Noctilucent clouds, which implies ‘evening shining’, and had been captured at
twilight early this Mars 12 months (which was truly March of 2021 – Mars years
are lengthy). These sorts of clouds are excessive up within the environment, and are
illuminated by the setting solar, even seen when the solar has gone beneath the
horizon. That is what makes them seem to glow, nonetheless being illuminated whereas
the remainder of the sky darkens. These explicit twilight clouds appear to type extra
readily in Gale crater close to the start of the Mars 12 months, one thing the staff
found in Mars 12 months 35. In the beginning of Mars 12 months 36 (the present Mars
12 months) we began searching for them and had been
not upset
. One of many nice issues about Curiosity having been on
Mars for thus lengthy is the truth that we will see yearly repetitions like this and
provide you with a greater concept of what the Martian setting is as much as 12 months after
12 months.

Mars’
blue sundown
is spectacular and well-known to followers of the ‘pink’ planet. However
“what color is the Martian sky?” is a query I’ve been requested greater than as soon as
by these much less aware of Mars. And it’s an amazing query! Typically – like
on this image or the cloud image above, the sky seems extra blue, virtually
like earth’s sky. However at different instances, like within the selfie or the Mount Sharp
panorama, it seems extra orange or yellow. There’s a number of components behind this –
usually pictures are colour-corrected (‘white-balanced’) to point out what a scene may
seem like below earth-like lighting. This will help scientists interpret
options inside a scene, making them look extra acquainted to raised evaluate to
earth, however doesn’t precisely characterize what you may see when you had been standing
on the floor of Mars, which might be extra of a yellowy-orange sky.

Besides once you get near the solar, like on this sundown
image. Very similar to how earth’s scatters mild, giving us a blue sky, so too
does mud within the Martian environment, however the blue wavelengths of sunshine largely
scatter forwards, so the blue color seems nearer to the solar. Because the solar
units, there’s extra environment and extra mud for the sunshine to scatter via,
in order that blue impact close to the solar turns into extra pronounced. 

I’m going to complete with this
absolute stunner of a picture
, which mixes two NavCam (Navigation
digicam
) mosaics of the identical scene, one taken within the morning and one within the
afternoon. They had been mixed to point out totally different panorama options which are
highlighted because the solar illuminates some areas and casts others into shadow. After
speaking concerning the colors of Mars, you could be questioning what offers this picture
its putting blue and yellow palette. The NavCams on Curiosity solely take
photos in black and white – color was added to this picture after the actual fact to
spotlight the lighting adjustments, with blue exhibiting morning options, yellow
exhibiting night options, and their mixture exhibiting simply that – a
mixture of the 2. This image is wanting again down Mount Sharp in the direction of
the crater rim within the distance, and it looks like a becoming picture to shut this
blogpost on, wanting again over the past nice 10 years with Curiosity.

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