Curiosity Sees Martian Mountain in 3D

The entire universe in blog form
April 24 2013 12:30 PM

Curiosity Rover Takes a Sharp 3D Picture of Mars

Because why not: Here’s a very cool 3D picture from the Mars rover Curiosity, showing the nearby landscape and the distant peak of Mt. Sharp:

3D anaglyph from Mars
The red and green planet. Click to barsoomenate.

Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech

I love these kinds of images! You need red-green (or, more accurately, red-cyan) glasses to see them, of course. I know some folks have them; if you don’t you can make them yourself easily out of inexpensive craft materials, or you can find them online for a buck or two. I recommend it; there are tons of these kinds of images (called anaglyphs) online. And not just ones of Mars, but also space shots, astronomy pictures, and more.

Advertisement

Curiosity is equipped with several instruments, including a navigational camera (called, oddly, Navcam), which is actually two cameras, one on the left and another on the right. These provide slightly different perspectives, and can be combined to create anaglyphs like the one above. They trick your brain into thinking you’re seeing in actual three dimensions by showing you one view in one eye, and the other slightly different view in the other eye. Your brain is actually pretty easy to fool. But this is more than a trick: The combined images do provide distances to various nearby objects, which can be used to help navigate the rover around obstacles, or to interesting targets.

Curiosity landed on Mars in August 2012, touching down in Gale Crater, a 154-kilometer-wide (96 mile) impact crater. Like most big craters, there’s a large central peak, a mountain in the middle. The official name of the peak is Aeolis Mons, but everyone informally called it Mt. Sharp (though, to be honest, the Greek name is way cooler). Curiosity is making its way toward the mountain, examining the ground around it as it goes.

In the anaglyph, Sharp stands out like a colossus in the distance. For me, though, the scene-stealer is the shelf of sedimentary rock stretching off to the horizon. Gale Crater, apparently, was once a lake, very long ago. Some event or series of events dried Mars up, and now, a billion or so years later, well, there it is. Dry, perhaps dead, but still brimming with evidence of its wet past.

Curiosity’s mission is not even halfway to its goal yet, and, obviously, there is much, much more to see and explore.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

The Ludicrous Claims You’ll Hear at This Company’s “Egg Freezing Parties”

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 30 2014 2:36 PM This Court Erred The Supreme Court has almost always sided with the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful, a new book argues.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:43 AM “I Didn’t Want to Build the Next Twitter for Cats” Search funds are the quiet, dependable, risk-averse sibling to the startup. 
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 1 2014 10:49 AM James Meredith, Determined to Enroll at Ole Miss, Declares His Purpose in a 1961 Letter
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 10:54 AM “I Need a Pair of Pants That Won’t Bore Me to Death” Troy Patterson talks about looking sharp, flat-top fades, and being Slate’s Gentleman Scholar.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 10:44 AM Everyone’s Favorite Bob’s Burgers Character Gets a Remix You Can Dance to
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 11:41 AM Study: Narcissists Watch More Porn Online
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.