Mars curiosity selfie

Image courtesy NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

A Selfie From the Martian Dunes

| published February 1, 2016 |

By Thursday Review staff

NASA’s Martian rover, called Curiosity Mars, love selfies. This self-portrait was taken using Curiosity’s specially designed selfie stick—actually a high tech extendable and movable arm called Mars Hand Lens Imager—on January 19 of this year. The photo is actually a complex mosaic of more than 50 photographs taken using the imaging arm, carefully arranged to create this wide, deep focus shot of Curiosity at the very edge of the Bagnold Dune Field, on the northwestern side of Mount Sharp.

Curiosity was there to grab photos, scoop up sand and soil samples, and give the sand a “taste,” which means send back a detailed analysis of the material is has analyzed to NASA and other scientists back on Earth. The rover has been exploring those dunes for several weeks, scooping sand and soil, testing and tasting, and the repeating the process. A device on Curiosity also measures the diameter of the grains of sand by passing it through a specially-designed sieve or filter, and to take macro-close-up photos with a different camera of each scoop of sand.

One aspect of Curiosity’s mission is to monitor for movements in the sand itself to answer the question of how quickly wind and erosion impacts the shape, texture and reach of the dunes. This requires Curiosity to take repeat photos in the same spot to create a time lapse image to determine just how quickly the dunes shift in response to environmental factors, such as wind on the surface of Mars.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Veil Nebula, Seen From the Hubble; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; December 1, 2016.

Spacewalk: Making Room for Rendezvous; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; December 22, 2016.