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Spaghetti Western Landscape on Mars

“I still can’t get over how amazingly clear the skies were when we took this, and how we could see for miles and miles and miles,” Fraeman said of this 2018 panorama, which shows the floor of Gale Crater as seen from higher up the mountain, at a location called Vera Rubin Ridge. “How spectacular would the rim of Gale Crater have looked to an astronaut if they were standing on Mount Sharp that day?”

Vasavada narrated this video tour of the journey up the mountain.

This wide panorama was taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on Dec. 19, 2019, the 2,620th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. On the righthand foreground is Western Butte; the ridge with a crusty cap in the background is the Greenheugh pediment, which Curiosity ascended in March of 2020. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Martian Spaghetti Western
Parts of the Martian desert resemble the American Southwest. This wide panorama, shot by the Mastcam on Dec. 19, 2019 (Sol 2620), includes 130 images stitched together. In the foreground on the right is “Western Butte”; the slope with a crusty cap in the background is the “Greenheugh Pediment,” which Curiosity ascended in March 2020 for a sneak peek of terrain scientists hope to investigate later in the mission.

Martian Sand Dunes
Two sizes of wind-sculpted ripples are evident in this view of the top surface of a Martian sand dune. Sand dunes and the smaller type of ripples also exist on Earth. The larger ripples — roughly 10 feet (3 meters) apart — are a type not seen on Earth nor previously recognized as a distinct type on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A Sea of Dunes
This location, part of “Namib Dune,” shows two different-sized ripples that the wind-sculpted in the sand. Curiosity discovered that the larger kind, standing roughly 10 feet (3 meters) apart, are found on Mars only as a result of its thin atmosphere. The panorama was taken on Dec. 13, 2015 (Sol 1192).

Drifting Clouds on Mars
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover imaged these drifting clouds on May 17, 2019, the 2,410th Martian day, or sol, of the mission, using its black-and-white Navigation Cameras (Navcams). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Staring at Clouds
Curiosity occasionally studies clouds to learn more about the Martian atmosphere. There is vanishingly little water in the Martian air, which is 1% as dense as Earth’s air, but water-ice clouds do sometimes form. The clouds shown here, which are likely water-ice, were captured about 19 miles (31 kilometers) above the surface on May 17, 2019 (Sol 2410), using the rover’s black-and-white Navigation Cameras.