NASA’s Curiosity rover captured a sunrise view on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover bid farewell to the fascinating „Marker Band Valley” after completing a major software update in April 2023. The rover captured this amazing sunrise view before leaving the valley.

„Postcard” features an artistic interpretation with additional color over two black-and-white panoramas taken by Curiosity’s navigation cameras. The images were captured at 9:20 a.m. and 3:40 p.m. local Mars time on April 8, showing unique light variations that reveal intricate details in the scene. Based on a similar postcard taken in November 2021, blue colors were incorporated to depict morning scenes and yellow tones for afternoon scenes.

The resulting image is truly spectacular, showing interest at the base of Mount Sharp, which stands 3 miles (5 kilometers) inside Gale Crater. In the distance, beyond the rover’s tracks, is the Marker Band Valley, a winding area located within a „sulfate-bearing zone.”

Curiosity discovered unexpected evidence of an ancient lake within this valley. And further down the valley, in the center and a little to the right, are seen two hills named „Bolivar” and „Deepdale.” The rover maneuvered between these mountains while surveying the „Paraidebui Pass”.

„Filming twice a day provides darker shadows because the lights are coming from the left and right, like you’re on stage — but instead of stage lights, we’re relying on the sun,” said Curiosity engineer Doug Ellison. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California planned and processed the images.

The film’s mesmerizing shadows owe much to the depth of winter prevailing at Curiosity’s location when the image was taken. Winter on Mars is a period of low wind dust, resulting in sharp and deep shadows. In contrast, according to Ellison, shadows appear softer when there is a lot of dust.

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The postcard offers a glimpse of Curiosity’s rear, showing its three antennae and nuclear power source. Notably, the Radiation Assessment Detection (RAD) instrument, visible as a white circle in the lower right corner of the image, helps scientists learn how to protect the first astronauts sent to Mars from radiation on the Martian surface.

Each stunning image and scientific discovery from the Mars mission brings us closer to unraveling the mysteries of our celestial neighbor — paving the way for future human missions to the Red Planet.

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