Friday, December 28, 2012

Curiosity Mars Rover Takes a Self-Portrait

At the beginning of November, the Curiosity rover on Mars used a camera on its big arm to take this wonderful panoramic picture of itself and its surroundings. Dozens of individual pictures were stitched together carefully to make this self-portrait. 

You can see four little trenches in the front where the arm scooped up some martian dirt for analysis.

Curiously, the way the images are taken and assembled, the arm is NOT visible in the picture. (You could imagine something similar if you held a camera out way in front of you and then took pictures from all sides. You could crop and assemble those pictures in a way so that your arm is always out of sight on the final image.)

In the background, on the upper right, you can see Mount Sharp, the mountain in the center of Gale Crater, which is the rover's ultimate destination. (See my blog post of August 19, 2012 for more on this mountain and its location.)

So far, all the instruments on board Curiosity are working fine, and the mission -- one of the most exciting astronomy events of the past year -- is continuing to send back good information from our red neighbor planet. As expected, we are already seeing clear evidence that there was lots of flowing water on Mars in the distant past.

P.S. If you are interested, you can see an animation of how this complex picture was taken and put together at: