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See a postcard from Mars taken by the Curiosity rover

Today, you can enjoy a stunning new view of Mars, thanks to a postcard from the Gale Crater taken by the Curiosity rover. The image combines two different views of the same area and is colorized to show off the undulating martian landscape in a region called the Marker Band Valley.

The image, shared by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), shows the back of the rover and views of the tire tracks it has left across the martian surface as it has driven. The view on the left side of the image was taken in the morning of April 8, at 9:20 a.m. local Mars time, while the image on the right side was taken on the same day but in the evening, at 3:40 p.m. local Mars time. The two images have been blended together to show how the landscape looks different throughout the day.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its black-and-white navigation cameras to capture panoramas of “Marker Band Valley” at two times of day on April 8. Color was added to a combination of both panoramas for an artistic interpretation of the scene.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its black-and-white navigation cameras to capture panoramas of “Marker Band Valley” at two times of day on April 8. Color was added to a combination of both panoramas to create an artistic interpretation of the scene. NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Anyone who’s been to a national park knows the scene looks different in the morning than it does in the afternoon,” said the person who processed the images, JPL Curiosity engineer Doug Ellison, in a statement. “Capturing two times of day provides dark shadows because the lighting is coming in from the left and the right, like you might have on a stage – but instead of stage lights, we’re relying on the sun.”

The image was taken by Curiosity’s navigation cameras, which take lower-resolution images that are used to help the rover drivers navigate around the terrain. Unlike the color images captured by the rover’s science cameras such as the Mastcam instrument, the navigation camera captures images in black-and-white, so this image had to be colorized to show the morning and evening colors. NASA does make all of the images taken by Curiosity publicly available, so if you want to know what the navigation camera images looked like before they were processed, you can check out this gallery.

The striking image is a combination of raw data from the rover and human adjustment to give it an aesthetic flair, but it was also helped along by the current weather conditions on Mars. In this region of the planet, it is currently winter, which means there is less dust in the air than at other times. That helps to give the image its sharp, crisp look. “Mars’ shadows get sharper and deeper when there’s low dust and softer when there’s lots of dust,” Ellison explained.

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Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
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