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Image of the Day: Mars' Mount Sharp -- Rising Three Miles Above Gale Crater Floor




Mount Sharp, also called Aeolis Mons, in the center of Gale Crater rises more than 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the crater floor location of Curiosity. Lower slopes of Mount Sharp remain a destination for the Curiosity mission, though the rover will first spend many more weeks around a location called "Yellowknife Bay," where it has found evidence of a past environment favorable for microbial life.

"This may be one of the thickest exposed sections of layered sedimentary rocks in the solar system," said Joy Crisp, MSL Deputy Project Scientist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "The rock record preserved in those layers holds stories that are billions of years old -- stories about whether, when, and for how long Mars might have been habitable."

An instrument on Curiosity can check for any water that might be bound into shallow underground minerals along the rover's path. Today the Red Planet is a radiation-drenched, bitterly cold, bleak world. Enormous dust storms explode across the barren landscape and darken Martian skies for months at a time. But data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter suggest that Mars once hosted vast lakes and flowing rivers.

"Gale Crater and its mountain will tell this intriguing story," says Matthew Golombek, Mars Exploration Program Landing Site Scientist from JPL. "The layers there chronicle Mars' environmental history."

A pair of mosaics assembled from dozens of telephoto images shows Mount Sharp above in dramatic detail. The component images were taken by the 100-millimeter-focal-length telephoto lens camera mounted on the right side of Curiosity's remote sensing mast, during the 45th Martian day of the rover's mission on Mars (Sept. 20, 2012).

A version of the mosaic that has been white-balanced to show the terrain as if under Earthlike lighting, which makes the sky look overly blue, is at White-balanced versions help scientists recognize rock materials based on their terrestrial experience. The Martian sky would look like more of a butterscotch color to the human eye. A version of the mosaic with raw color, as a typical smart-phone camera would show the scene, is at*


Is not it highly ironic, that our very Solar system may have harbored not one, but two planets that were good enough to have intelligent life on them; then one of them may have been destroyed by a cosmis catastrophe, or just greedy population, and the remaining one is also being actively destroyed by our civilization, where people fight people - instead of trying to bring life way beyond this gravity well where we all may ultimately find our species' end - much like those guys from Mars in the past?

There were actually two other planets in our solar system that harbored intelligent life in the ancient past but Mars was not one of them.

Nope, there were three planets - Mars, Earth and the one that is now the asteroid belt.

Why do they have two versions? Isn't the white-balanced the right one? I mean, the Sun is the only source of light on Mars' surface. White-balancing is entirely sufficient to represent the true colors of Mars.

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