At first glance they look like old sepia-tone images of the American Southwest, but then you start noticing subtle differences that make them seem otherworldly. That’s because they are. These are the latest images sent to earth by NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover. They were taken in a region known as the “Murray Buttes.”
The buttes and mesas rising above the surface are eroded remnants of ancient sandstone that originated when winds deposited sand after lower Mount Sharp had formed. Curiosity closely examined that layer — called the “Stimson formation” — during the first half of 2016, while crossing a feature called “Naukluft Plateau” between two exposures of the Murray formation. The layering within the sandstone is called “cross-bedding” and indicates that the sandstone was deposited by wind as migrating sand dunes.
Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012 to study the red planet’s climate and geology. Originally scheduled for just a two year mission, Curiosity has continued to operate beyond its estimated lifespan and its mission has officially been extended indefinitely.
Check out this video depicting the historic landing of Curiosity on Mars.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS