The latest images to be sent back from the Mars rover Curiosity were released by NASA mere hours ago. Although most of the images were enhanced to show Mars as it would appear under the lighting conditions we have on Earth (the landscape would be a little pinker in real life), scientists are surprised by how similar the terrain of Mount Sharp is to the Grand Canyon.
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 colours 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.
Mount Sharp is the mountain inside of Gale Crater, the rover’s landing site. It rises 3 miles above the crater floor and is Curiosity’s eventual destination.
This image shows the interesting geology of Mount Sharp, a mountain inside Gale Crater, where Curiosity landed. Because the terrain above the line of white dots lacks hydrated minerals, scientists think it may have formed differently than the layer below.
This image, taken by Curiosity's 100-millimetre Mast Camera, shows the base of Mount Sharp, a mountain inside Gale Crater and Curiosity's ultimate destination.
A rock about the same size as Curiosity is highlighted in this photo. The mound above the rock is 1,000 feet across and 300 feet high.
The highest part of Mount Sharp is visible in this view of the rover's landing site. Mount Sharp is approximately 12 miles away from the rover.
This image is from a series of test images to calibrate the 34-millimetre Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity rover. It looks south-southwest from the rover's landing site.
The gravelly area around Curiosity's landing site, Gale Crater, is visible in the foreground. The top ridge in the distance is 10 miles away.
Grand Canyon or Mount Sharp? Before Curiosity landed on Mars, the layers of sediment and rock on the Red Planet were compared to the Grand Canyon, shown here. Scientists now find that colour and thickness of exposed rock are very similar.
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