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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Snaps Photo of Mars Rover Ascending Mount Sharp

Jun 23, 2017 10:10 AM EDT
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NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted Mars Rover on the surface of Mars. The rover looks like a bright blue dot on the image released by NASA.
(Photo : NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

There's a constellation of spacecraft working in order to observe and study the surface of Mars. Different teams composed of orbiters and landers consistently communicate with each other in order to receive, interpret and transfer data. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Curiosity Rover are perfect examples of this.

They rarely get a glimpse of each other since the orbiter remains in orbit while the rover traverses the Martian surface. But in recent images released by NASA, MRO captured the Mars Curiosity Rover on the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp.

In the photo taken by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), there's a blue dot. It was Curiosity spotted by the MRO. Curiosity rover is about 10 feet long and 9 feet wide (3.0 meters by 2.8 meters), but in a sea of orangey-red regolith, the blue spot is very easy to detect.

The image was taken by MRO's HiRISE camera last June 5, 2017. Although their rendezvous are rare, NASA said the HiRISE captures the rover about every three months. This helps the MRO monitor the surroundings for physical changes including erosion and dune migration.

The Curiosity rover is busy with its own mission, observing Mount Sharp and its surroundings. Currently, it is located at lower Mount Sharp near Vera Rubin Ridge. The ridge is an area where Curiosity team wanted to examine outcrops where "hematite" has been identified from the Mars orbit. Visible in the image is the condition of the surroundings where there are rocks and dark sands.

Although the rover looks bright blue in the MRO image, NASA says that the rover appears bluer than it actually is. HiRISE uses different colors in its infrared-band like red and blue-green. They are displayed in red, blue and green but are not visible to the human eye. This makes the rover appear brighter than usual.

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