A chapter of the layered geological history of Mars is laid bare in the latest image from Nasa's Curiosity rover. The image shows the base of Mount Sharp, the rover's eventual destination.
The telephoto image is one of a number beamed back to Earth recently. They depict a scene of eroded knobs and gulches on a mountainside with geological layering clearly exposed.
The images were taken by the 100-millimetre telephoto lens and the 34-millimetre wide angle lens of the Mast Camera instrument.
“This is an area on Mount Sharp where Curiosity will go,” said Mastcam principal investigator Michael Malin. “Those layers are our ultimate objective. The dark dune field is between us and those layers. In front of the dark sand you see redder sand, with a different composition suggested by its different color. The rocks in the foreground show diversity - some rounded, some angular, with different histories. This is a very rich geological site to look at and eventually to drive through.”
The rover is three weeks into a two-year mission on Mars. In the coming months it will use its ten science instruments to assess whether the selected study area ever offered environmental conditions favourable for microbial life.
Curiosity has already returned more data from the Martian surface than all of NASA's previous rovers combined.
- Want to know about Curiosity and its mission? Visit mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl