Curiosity Rover Sends Colorized Panoramic Postcard From Mars

The Curiosity rover took two shots of a valley on Mars at different times of day; the images were then colorized and combined by NASA scientists to produce a picturesque panorama of the planet.

Curiosity took the images at Marker Band Valley, a feature in the foothills of Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain in Mars’ Gale Crater. Curiosity’s been trekking around Mount Sharp since September 2014. It’s documented remarkable sights, from a Martian ‘doorway’ to whimsical rock formations.

The most recent sight was Marker Band Valley, named for a dark, thin rock layer in the area that was first spotted from space. The valley hosts signs that an ancient river once ran through the area.

The images were taken at 9:20 a.m. and 3:40 p.m. local Mars time on April 8th, shortly after Curiosity completed a software update.

The images were taken with Curiosity’s black-and-white navigation cameras. Color was only added to the images afterward, with the blue sky from the morning image and the yellow Martian sky belonging to the afternoon shot.

“Anyone who’s been to a national park knows the scene looks different in the morning than it does in the afternoon,” said Doug Ellison, an engineer on the Curiosity team who planned and processed the images, in a NASA release.

“Capturing two times of day provides dark shadows because the lighting is coming in from the left and the right, like you might have on a stage – but instead of stage lights, we’re relying on the Sun,” Ellison added.

It’s currently winter where Curiosity is on Mars, causing the shadows in the image to be much longer than in other parts of the Martian year.

The horizon in the composite image is the rim of Gale Crater, the 90-mile-wide (150-kilometer) feature in which Curiosity landed in 2012. For the past 11 years (and counting) the rover has explored signs of Mars’ ancient geological and fluvial past, giving planetary scientists something to chew on.

Curiosity keeps on chugging, and postcards like this are a happy reminder of the science going on a world away from us.

More: New Curiosity Image Reminds Us That Mars Is a Truly Beautiful Place

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