Curiosity’s self-portrait provides a sweeping panoramic view of the rover’s location in February 2013, in the Yellowknife Bay region of Mars’ Gale Crater. Notice the distant sun in the sky of our solar system’s fourth planet. The rover’s flat, rocky perch is known as “John Klein.” It’s where Curiosity conducted its first rock-drilling activity last week.
The self-portrait was acquired to document the drilling site. Look carefully at the enlarged view of the Curiosity self-portrait, at the foot of the rover, and you’ll see a shallow drill test hole and a sample collection hole. They are 1.6 centimeters in diameter.
Also, check out this amazing interactive version of Curiosity’s self-portrait from 360cities.net.
The rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) acquired this self-portrait. MAHLI is mounted on a turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, which is not visible in the mosaic. Wrist motions and turret rotations on the arm allowed MAHLI to acquire the mosaic’s component images.
Why can’t you see the robotic arm in the self-portrait? Remember, it’s a mosaic, combining 66 exposures. The arm was positioned out of the shot in most images, and the mosaic was assembled using portions of images not containing the robotic arm.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.