NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity just lately posed for a selfie in entrance of a fantastic Martian rock outcrop known as “Mont Mercou,” after probing the realm for clues concerning the Red Planet’s previous.
Curiosity landed inside Mars’ 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale Crater in August 2012 with a main objective to seek out out if the planet is, or was, appropriate for all times. Earlier in March, the rover arrived at a scenic rock formation because it traversed the slopes of Mount Sharp — a 3-mile-tall (5 km) mountain positioned at the middle of Gale Crater, which Curiosity has been climbing since September 2014.
This new rock formation — nicknamed Mont Mercou after a mountain in France — stands about 20 ft (6 meters) tall and will be seen to the left of the rover within the new selfie, which NASA launched Tuesday (March 30).
Video: Curiosity snaps new selfie on Mars & Mont ‘Mercou’ panoramas
Related: Amazing Mars images by NASA’s Curiosity rover
Using its Mastcam instrument, the rover snapped 11 pictures of itself close to Mont Mercou on March 16, together with one other 60 pictures on March 26, which had been taken utilizing the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on the rover’s robotic arm. The two units of pictures had been mixed to create the rover’s newest selfie.
The new pictures not solely seize the rover and the gorgeous Martian panorama, but additionally present a brand new drill gap, representing Curiosity’s thirtieth rock pattern on Mars, which has been nicknamed “Nontron” after the small village within the southeast of France, close to Mont Mercou. Curiosity used its drill to pulverize the rock samples into powder, which is then deposited into laboratory devices contained in the car and analyzed for indicators that Mars could have as soon as supported life, in keeping with a press release from NASA.
“The team chose Nontron-related nicknames for this part of the Red Planet because Mars orbiters detected nontronite, a type of clay mineral found close to Nontron, [France],” in keeping with the assertion. “Surface missions assign nicknames to landmarks to provide the mission’s team members a common way to refer to rocks, soils and other geologic features of interest.”
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Currently, the rover is working its approach up Mount Sharp, transitioning from the “clay-bearing unit” — an space characterised by minerals that normally kind in water — and the “sulfate-bearing unit.” Sulfates, like gypsum and Epsom salts, are minerals that kind when water evaporates, so the presence of sulfates on Mars may present clues concerning the historical past of water on Mars.
“Scientists have long thought this transition might reveal what happened to Mars as it became the desert planet we see today,” in keeping with the NASA assertion
In addition to the brand new selfie, the rover additionally captured a pair of panoramas that provide a 3D view of Mount Mercou. Using its Mastcam on March 4, Curiosity took 32 particular person pictures to create one panoramic view of the outcrop from about 130 ft (40 m) away. The rover additionally photographed the perimeters of the rock formation from the identical distance to create a stereoscopic impact just like these seen in 3D viewfinders.
“Studying the outcrop from more than one angle helps scientists get a better idea of the 3D geometry of Mount Mercou’s sedimentary layers,” in keeping with the assertion from NASA.
Curiosity additionally used its Mastcam to create a 360-degree panorama of Mont Mercou and its environment, which consists of 126 particular person pictures taken on March 3. Mont Mercou is captured to the suitable within the higher a part of this panoramic view, with Mount Sharp’s peaks towering behind the outcrop and its summit close to the highest of the picture, simply left of heart.
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