Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
A composite image looking toward the higher regions of Mount Sharp on Mars was taken Sept. 9 by NASA’s Curiosity rover.
In the foreground — about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the rover — is a long ridge teeming with hematite, an iron oxide. Just beyond is an undulating plain rich in clay minerals. And just beyond that are a multitude of rounded buttes, all high in sulfate minerals. The changing mineralogy in these layers of Mount Sharp suggests a changing environment in early Mars, though all involve exposure to water billions of years ago.
The Curiosity team hopes to be able to explore these diverse areas in the months and years ahead. Further back in the image are striking, light-toned cliffs in rock that may have formed in drier times and now is heavily eroded by winds.
The colors are adjusted so that rocks look approximately as they would if they were on Earth, to help geologists interpret the rocks. This “white balancing” to adjust for the lighting on Mars overly compensates for the absence of blue on Mars, making the sky appear light blue and sometimes giving dark, black rocks a blue cast.
Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates Curiosity’s Mastcam. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, built the rover and manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information about Curiosity, visit http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.nasa.gov/msl.