This doesn’t really capture the scale of Mars’s Mount Sharp, a destination NASA’s Curiosity Rover will eventually explore, but it shows a geography that rises more than 3 miles above the Gale Crater floor. That’s taller than any mountain here in the contiguous states in the U.S. Very, very tall. But Curiosity isn’t ready to conquer it just yet.
The high resolution panorama was stitched together from images snapped by Curiosity’s 100-millimeter-focal-length telephoto lens last year, depicting a scene fitting of a typical desert location here on Earth. But the cropped version you see above is actually white-balanced to resemble more of an Earth-like tone so scientists can better recognize rock materials “based on their terrestrial experience,” NASA wrote. The real, RAW version shows a more butterscotch sky, which is what the human eye would see—or what a smartphone would capture, NASA said.
Curiosity recently sent back analyzed data that suggests life may have one day existed on Mars, which is a big breakthrough for understanding the universe. Right now, the rover is exploring a portion of Mars scientists refer to as Yellowknife Bay, before it finally heads over to the lower slopes of Mount Sharp. You can check out both the white-balanced and raw images of the incredible mountain over at GigaPan (here and here).