Since its August 5-6, 2012 landing on Mars – an event known to space scientists as seven minutes of terror – NASA’s Curiosity rover has been studying the surface of Mars. Its job now is to determine whether the Gale Crater area, the area in which it landed, ever had the right conditions to support microbial life. As of December, 2015 – using its 17 cameras – Curiosity has acquired over 292,000 images from the surface of Mars. The images on this page are our picks of some of the best images captured by the rover in 2015.
The rover mission’s official name is the Mars Science Laboratory. The rover itself is 9 feet (about 3 meters) long and 7 feet (about 2.7 meters) wide, and weighs about 2,000 pounds (900 kg).
Two orbiters that were already studying Mars when Curiosity arrived. They are the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and Mars Odyssey. These two act as satellites, relaying pictures and data from the rover back to Earth.
Because color images use much more data or bandwidth to be transmitted to our planet, a lot of black and white images are sent to the orbiting spacecraft that occasionally passes over the rover’s location for a short time. However, some color images are eventually sent.
Giant antennas at California (USA), Australia and Spain compose the Deep Space Network that receives pictures and data from the Mars spacecraft as well as from other interplanetary spacecraft.
Where is Curiosity right now? The rover is located in an area of Mount Sharp that has been named Namib dune. The rover is analyzing the composition and grain size of a ripple.
Seven minutes of terror. Even if you have seen this video before, these images which show how Curiosity landed on Mars may still give you goosebumps:
Bottom line: EarthSky choices for Mars Curiosity rover’s 10 best images of Mars in 2015. Check ’em out!
Eddie Irizarry of the Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe (Astronomical Society of the Caribbean) has been a NASA Solar System Ambassador since 2004. He loves public outreach and has published multiple astronomy articles for EarthSky, as well as for newspapers in Puerto Rico. He has also offered dozens of conferences related to asteroids and comets at the Arecibo Observatory.
Asteroid 33012EddieIrizarry, a 7.8 km space rock, has been named in his honor.
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