This week, NASA released a new photo of the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp, a mountain on Mars that rises 18,000 feet high. While the geography is spectacular—it’s a picture of a distant planet’s surface!—that’s not why this image is special.
If you look closely, you’ll notice a tiny blue spec in the middle of the photo. That’s NASA’s Curiosity rover—the rover is approximately 10 feet long and 9 feet wide—which is currently investigating a region of active sand dunes lower on Mount Sharp.
According to NASA, the picture was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which snaps an image of Curiosity about every three months. Not necessarily to make sure Curiosity is ok, but to monitor changes on the Martian planet’s surface.
Although Curiosity appears bright blue in the photo, Curiosity actually looks a lot different to the naked eye.
“HiRISE color observations are recorded in a red band, a blue-green band and an infrared band, and displayed in red, green and blue,” NASA wrote in a blog post. “This helps make differences in Mars surface materials apparent, but does not show natural color as seen by the human eye.”
When the image was snapped on June 5, Curiosity was partway between Mount Sharp’s lower sand dunes and Vera Rubin Ridge, an area where NASA’s rover team believes are outcrops of hematite.