Now would be a good time to update your desktop wallpaper. NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has snapped a spectacular — if not inexplicable — wide-angled self-portrait at the Mojave Site on Mount Sharp where the probe is currently drilling for samples. Here's how NASA created the extraordinary shot.
It's actually a composite of dozens of images taken from various positions and angles in January 2015 by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera, located at the end of its robotic arm. When creating the composite, NASA's image processing people were able to exclude the arm. Wrist motions and turret rotations are what allowed for such a wide and tall image. The same process was used to create these similar images.
NASA also put together an annotated version of the shot.
Curiosity's selfie, which covers the key Pahrump Hills sites, was taken at the Mojave drilling site. This area is an outcrop of bedrock that forms the basal layer of Mount Sharp, which is at the center of the Gale Crater.
Looking at the image, you can see how dusty the rover is getting, and how banged-up and scratched its wheels are.
To put the scale into perspective, Curiosity's wheels are 20 inches (50 cm) in diameter and approximately 16 inches (40 cm) wide. The drilled holes are 0.63 inch (1.6 cm) in diameter.
For those of you eager to make this your desktop wallpaper, here are the links:
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Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.