It is common for mission teams to give nicknames to places, rocks and other geological formations of interest on Mars, so that they can identify them more easily. In this case, the “original” Mont Mercou that inspired the name chosen by the scientists is close to the village of Nontron, in France. The team decided to give this formation a nickname because the probes that orbit Mars identified nontronite in the region, which is a type of mineral that also occurs near Nontron.
Curiosity’s new selfie was made with 60 images produced by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera, which is on the rover’s robotic arm. Then, the images were combined with 11 others, made by the Mastcam instrument, on the “head” of the rover. In the image, it is possible to observe a robot in front of the hill, with a new hole opened in a collected rock. The rock, called Nontron, is the 30th sample obtained so far during the mission, which was pulverized before being taken to the rover’s instruments for the team to study its composition and the clues it can offer about the past of Mars.
The region in which it was obtained is a transition area in the composition of the soil, which can help to reveal what happened to the Red Planet to transform it into the arid world we see today. In addition to the selfie, the exploratory robot used Mastcam to produce some panoramic images of the mountain, which yielded an interesting effect: when shooting a panorama 40 m away from the place, moving around and producing another one with the same distance, the final images were with a depth effect that somewhat resembles that of 3D displays.
The two images were taken on March 4, which is also the 3,049th Martian day of the mission, and the colors were balanced to be more similar to what we would see in Earth conditions during the day. By studying the images from different angles, scientists are able to better understand the layers of Mount Mercou.
Launched in November 2011, Curiosity landed on Mars at the end of the following year to analyze our neighbor – and in it, he occasionally takes selfies, which record how the soil and other formations were on the site before being drilled for sampling . Last year, the robot broke the steepest terrain record ever climbed, and recorded the moment in a “portrait”. In 2019, another selfie was used to celebrate the success of a chemical experiment done on Martian soil.
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