A mosaic of images from the NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity shows 3-mile-high (5-kilometer-high) Mount Sharp in a white-balanced color adjustment. What’s that mean? For one thing, notice the sky, which is blue in the image above. Martian sky is actually a butterscotch color to the human eye, NASA says. White-color balancing is useful for showing the terrain on Mars as if under Earth-like lighting. It’s what Mount Sharp would look like on Earth. NASA scientists assembled the mosaic from dozens of images from the 100-millimeter-focal-length telephoto lens camera mounted on the right side of the Curiosity rover’s Mastcam instrument. The component images were taken during the 45th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s mission on Mars (Sept. 20, 2012). NASA says:
White-balancing helps scientists recognize rock materials based on their experience looking at rocks on Earth. The Martian sky would look more of a butterscotch color to the human eye. White balancing yields an overly blue hue in images that have very little blue information, such as Martian landscapes, because the white balancing tends to overcompensate for the low inherent blue content.
Curiosity has been gazing at Mount Sharp periodically since landing near it in August, 2012. The rover will eventually move toward the loower slopes of this mountain, although it’ll first spend many more weeks around a location called “Yellowknife Bay,” where it has found evidence of a past environment favorable for microbial life.
Curious about what this mountain would look like if you were standing on Mars, gazing toward it with human eyes?
Here is the same mosaic of images – taken September 20, 2012 – showing Mount Sharp in raw color. Raw color shows the scene’s colors as they would look in a typical smart-phone camera photo, before any adjustment.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded 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.