NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has captured an up-close image of the red planet's mountainous landscape, with purple-coloured rocks littered across the foreground. The image captured from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Curiosity Mars rover shows purple-hued rocks near the rover's late-2016 location on lower Mount Sharp.
The scene's middle distance includes higher layers that are future destinations for the mission. Variations in colour of the rocks hint at the diversity of their composition on lower Mount Sharp, NASA said. The purple tone of the foreground rocks has been seen in other rocks where Curiosity's Chemical and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument has detected hematite, it said.
Winds and windblown sand in this part of Curiosity's traverse and in this season tend to keep rocks relatively free of dust, which otherwise can cloak rocks' colour. The three frames combined into a mosaic were acquired by the Mastcam's right-eye camera on November 10, during the 1,516th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars.
The scene is presented with a colour adjustment that approximates white balancing, to resemble how the rocks and sand would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth. Sunlight on Mars is tinged by the dusty atmosphere and this adjustment helps geologists recognise colour patterns they are familiar with on Earth. The view spans about 15 compass degrees, with the left edge towards southeast. The rover's planned direction of travel from its location when the scene was recorded is generally southeastward.
The orange-looking rocks above the purplish foreground ones are in the upper portion of the Murray formation, which is the basal section of Mount Sharp, extending up to a ridge-forming layer called the Hematite Unit....