Curiosity transmits first full-color panorama back from Mars

Ain't it pretty? The first color panorama image of Gale Crater, the landing site for the Curiosity rover. Thumbnail versions of images taken by the Mast Camera were combined to form this 360-degree view. From NASA:

Scientists will be taking a closer look at several splotches in the foreground that appear gray. These areas show the effects of the descent stage's rocket engines blasting the ground. What appeared as a dark strip of dunes in previous, black-and-white pictures from Curiosity can also be seen along the top of this mosaic, but the color images also reveal additional shades of reddish brown around the dunes, likely indicating different textures or materials.

The images were taken late Aug. 8 PDT (Aug. 9 EDT) by the 34-millimeter Mast Camera. This panorama mosaic was made of 130 images of 144 by 144 pixels each. Selected full frames from this panorama, which are 1,200 by 1,200 pixels each, are expected to be transmitted to Earth later. The images in this panorama were brightened in the processing. Mars only receives half the sunlight Earth does and this image was taken in the late Martian afternoon.

Full size available here.


  1. Mars is creepy. You could walk around the planet time and time again and never see  any wildlife, any flowers, hear any birds. All you’d see and feel and smell and taste is red sand. All you’d hear would be wind blowing red sand around.

      1. We haven’t yet seen the mile-high ice-encrusted cliffs at the northern pole and at Echus Chasma.. or how Olympus Mons towers over Amazonia Planitia.  Or the 6km deep canyon Valles Marineris.   There’s a LOT of texture there.  Probably a few unbelievably cool mineral outcrops, and stuff we never see on Earth.  Sure, there’s no vegetation, but the geologic texture will be mystifying.

        1. ” ‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English). ’Now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!’ (for when she looked down at her feet they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off).”, Alice in Wonderland

    1.  This is why I feel a bit creeped out by people who want to volunteer for a one-way mission to Mars.

      Desert landscapes are pretty, but they only go so far. And even then, you’ll only experience them through the faceplate of a spacesuit*.

      And when you’re not outside in a spacesuit, you’re going to be stuck in a buried habitat that, at most, might be a little better equipped than a mobile home. You’ll have to recycle everything. Toilet paper? Hah hah. Spread your cheeks and let a spray of tepid water that’s been through you and your crewmates several dozen times. Toxic grit on everything that has been outside. Bland hydroponic vegetables.

      And then you have to put on a show every week for the mission’s sponsors, the producers of a reality TV show. Half the planet back home thinks there were ancient martians, because one of the script writers demanded you “find” some artifacts and no one payed attention to the disclaimers along the bottom of the screen.

      * Unless it all becomes too much, and you run naked from an airlock.

      1. “Desert landscapes are pretty, but they only go so far.”  A bit like the experiences of trans-Antarctic explorers.  White, white and more white.

      2. Desert landscapes are pretty, but they only go so far

        Martian gravity is 38% of Earth’s.  Imagine the sex.  Why leave the house?

    2. In the immortal words of Elton John:
      “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids
      In fact it’s cold as hell
      And there’s no one there to raise them if you did”

      1. These are actually the immortal words of Bernie Taupin, who writes the lyrics to Elton John’s songs.  Elton, while brilliant, is not a lyricist and only writes the music. This has been another “great moments in pedantry”.

    3. Plus it looks almost like you could step right out onto it without a spacesuit but you’d die of anoxia very quickly.

    1. I can’t remember the title, but there’s a hilarious Larry Niven story about an Earth probe landing on Mars. A bunch of Martian kids play with it and knock it around and eventually drive it off a cliff.

      Now that I think about it that’s probably the real reason half the probes we’ve sent have been failures. Remember the NASA engineer who supposedly used English instead of metric measurements? That was all a coverup. It was the aliens that destroyed the probe.

    1.  Unfortunately I do. Thank goodness they didn’t do that here. Just give me the hi-res versions, I can scroll around myself tyvm. I have no desire for some proprietary vendor locked in format. QT on windows should be classified as malware.

  2. Xeni- I was overjoyed at your question on the panel that night – but I have one maybe you’ve asked or heard about: First, I work in digital imaging all day, so I know a file size would be large and potentially out of possibility for now, but has anyone mentioned video from a Mars project?

    How awesome would a live cam on Mars be?

    1. The MSL’s mast camera can capture “high-definition video at 10fps”. No info on whether it can capture lower-resolution video at a higher rate, but 10fps is probably good enough for capturing video of martian dust devils.

      Oh, and of course there’s the amazing video of the landing made from the 4fps capture from MARDI, the landing camera!

  3. In the words of the penguins from the movie Madagascar, when they finally make it to Antarctica and see the frozen wasteland there, “Well, *this* sucks.”

  4.  I know that the cameras are all setup to be optimized for martian chroma and luma conditions, but how bright does it actually get on Mars during the day? And could you see the stars and planets at night?  I know that some seasons are basically a blackout due to planet-wide sandstorms.

    I’m just very curious about how familiar it would feel on mars, just to look around with human eyes, instead of cameras designed specifically to accommodate our vision.

    1. The martian sky is generally a bit hazy with dust but nowhere as bad as the smog in the city where I live. Take away the city lights and you have a great view of the sky at night. Most of the color pictures you see from cameras on mars now are intended to look the way our eyes would see the scene. Curiosity has color targets on its top deck which are intended to help calibrate the cameras.

      If you want a more “touchy feely” view of living on Mars then I recommend you read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy. Its a great read.

  5. Also, all the nav cam pics are left/right pairs.  So if you put them next to each other and then go crosseyed you can get a stereoscopic 3D view of the landscape.  Seems the cameras are quite widely separated, so it’s a bit of a stretch, but once you get your eyes to do the correct gymnastics, the view of the landscape is pretty spectacular.   I shopped them together in an album here:

    1. Thank you, that is fantastic!!!
      I love the dropoff into the ‘valley’ and the rocks balancing on top of each other (?).

  6. What is up with censoring the sky view in the pic? Too many contrails? Censor of the vee-hickle is understandable but censor the sky?

  7. Red mars is red.

    I’ve said this before, but this is quite the cutest space shot ever. “Curiosity” doesn’t sound like a military vehicle, it’s more like a pet in a progressive kindergarten. “Hey Curiosity, have a bit of carrot. Nice little guy…Don’t pet him too hard, kids.”

    “Gale Crater”: Nice short, friendly words, could be the teacher’s name.
    And, what can I say, this is beyond anything I can think of in science fiction…the detail and the thrill of it all!
    Mr. Hubbard, you’ve been outdone. For this is reality, and all you ever had were fairy tales.

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