The fourth rock from the Sun is often nicknamed the Red Planet, but Mars isn’t just red. One of Curiosity’s latest images shows us that. Below you’re going to see splashes of purple in the rocks located in the foreground, while the background is the usual rusty red color.
The three frames making up the image were captured on November 10 as Curiosity continued its trek up Mount Sharp. Changes in the color of the rocks tease us about the diversity of their composition. The purple tone has been seen before in other rocks and tests of those by the rover’s Chemical and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument showed hematite.
Did You Know: Like many images captured far from Earth, the image above was color adjusted. The above image used a color adjustment that approximates white balancing. The imaging team wants a final image showing how the terrain would appear under Earth-like lighting conditions. This makes it easier for members of the geology team to see color patterns they recognize from work on Earth.
The image also gives us a better lay of the land. It can be hard determining distances in a single still. The orangish rocks just above the purple ones sit in the upper portion of the Murray formation. The rounded hills beyond that are called the Sulfate. This is the highest planned stop for the Curiosity rover. The slopes seen 18+ kilometers away are still part of Mount Sharp, but beyond Curiosity’s planned trek.
Studying higher layers of Mount Sharp will help fill in the picture of Mars’ past we have so far.
A bum drill can’t stop Curiosity
Curiosity is still having problems with its drill. According to a report from SpaceFlight Now, internal debris may be the problem. Engineers continue to assess what is causing a motor on the drill to intermittently stall. Lucky for the team, and us, Curiosity isn’t just a drilling rover.
A couple of weeks ago, the rover took a short drive and began another set of atmospheric observations with the Navcam and Mastcam. The ChemCam analyzed four targets: ‘Somes Sound,’ ‘Schoodic Penisula,’ ‘South Bubble,’ and ‘Schooner Head.’
For New Year’s, Curiosity will continue Navcam and Chemcam observations of several targets. While most of the team takes a much-needed break for the holidays, Curiosity will keep doing its thing. Normal operations are expected to get back into full gear on January 3 says MSL science team member Lauren Edgar.
“It’s been quite the year for our rover: we have drilled six holes, performed two scoops, driven 3km, and climbed 85 vertical meters! I can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring,” Edgar wrote in a recent update.