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via Instagram @NASA / NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA captures the surface of Mars in a rare photo

The realistic rendering was captured by NASA’s Curiosity Rover, commanded by scientists who were stunned at the planet’s beauty

As we await more signs of alien life on Mars, scientists at NASA have captured a rare photo of the Red Planet.

Last week (November 16), engineers working on NASA’s Curiosity Rover – the agency’s largest rover ever, set out to investigate the possibility of microbes on Mars – decided to update the device’s low quality images, hoping to capture a realistic look at the planet’s beauty.

On Rover’s 3999th day of exploration, the scientists commanded it to take two sets of panoramic images in the morning and afternoon. From there, they combined the photos in an artistic re-creation – using the contrasting lightings to bring out landscape details. 

“Curiosity captures a 360-degree view of its surroundings with its black and white navigation cameras each time it completes a drive. To make the resulting panorama easier to send to Earth, the rover keeps it in a compressed, low-quality format,” NASA captioned a post on Instagram, revealing the postcard. “When Curiosity saw the view from its most recent stopping point, the scene was just too pretty not to capture it in the highest quality that the navigation cameras are capable of.”

“The beauty of the landscape was so inspiring, in fact, that the mission team decided to add a little flair: they combined two versions of the black-and-white images from different times of the day and added colours to create a rare postcard from the Red Planet.”

Visible in the centre of the postcard is Mars’ five km-tall rock formation, Mount Sharp – which Curiosity has been driving up since 2014. On the right is Rafael Navarro mountain, a craggy rock formation that was named after a Curiosity scientist who passed away earlier this year. 

Details from the original morning photo are captured in orange, details from the afternoon photo are captured in blue, and those shared from both images are displayed as green.

Earlier this year, scientists working on NASA’s Perseverance Rover – a smaller rover, looking for signs of life on Mars in soil and rocks – discovered that rock samples taken from an ancient river delta on Mars may contain signs of now-extinct life on the planet. 

“One day, we may be able to work out the sequence and timing of the environmental conditions that this rock’s minerals represent. This will help answer the big-picture science question of the history and stability of liquid water on Mars,” said NASA’s Mitch Schulte.

See NASA’s postcard below.