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Curiosity snaps stunning self-portrait on Mars, not a selfie stick in sight

It’s fair to say that Curiosity’s stunning selfies leave Earthlings’ efforts in the Martian dust, the dramatic images showing off the stark yet breathtaking landscape of the distant red planet.

“Can’t wait to share my science results from Namib Dune; but first, let me take a selfie,” Curiosity, which arrived on Mars in 2012, said on its Facebook page over the weekend.

curiosity selfie 2016 - whole

Click to see entire image.

NASA
NASA

Related: 5 surprising facts about NASA’s Curiosity rover

The rover’s latest self-portrait shows it at Namib Dune where it’s been busy gathering sand samples for lab analysis. The effort is part of an ongoing experiment to discover how Martian winds shift sand around the planet, something Curiosity is apparently learning plenty about judging by its light covering of the stuff.

The study is helping to give researchers a clearer idea of Mars’ environment, with the gathered data potentially proving critical for any future manned missions to the planet.

Looking at the selfie, you’ll notice that Curiosity’s robotic arm, at the end of which sits its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera, is absent from the photo. So how did it manage that? Well, the picture comprises 57 separate images, most of which were taken with the multi-jointed arm (think of it as a high-tech selfie stick) positioned behind the camera.

Related: Explore Mars from your couch using NASA’s Curiosity simulator

NASA explains on its website, “Wrist motions and turret rotations on the arm allowed MAHLI to acquire the mosaic’s component images. The arm was positioned out of the shot in the images, or portions of images, that were used in this mosaic.”

This Instagram video also provides a brief explanation:

The same process was used to acquire and assemble other Curiosity selfies taken at various sample-collection sites on the planet, including Rocknest, Windjana, and Buckskin.

To find out more about Curiosity’s ongoing mission and to see other incredible imagery from Mars, be sure to check out NASA’s dedicated page here.