Nasa has released a new, incredibly detailed picture of a giant mountain on Mars.

Mount Sharp, also known as Aeolis Mons, is located in Mars' enormous Gale Crater, and rises more than 3 miles above the surface.

The $2.5 billion rover Curiosity is currently perched on its slopes looking for chemical hints that life once existed on the planet.

It took the new photograph over dozens of separate exposures, using the 100-millimeter telephoto lens camera.


Nasa released the picture in a 'white balanced' version which shows what the mountain would look like under Earth lighting.

The effect is an eerie Earth-like image, but one which is also distinctly alien.


Nasa said of the effect:

"White-balancing helps scientists recognize rock materials based on their experience looking at rocks on Earth. The Martian sky would look more of a butterscotch color to the human eye. White balancing yields an overly blue hue in images that have very little blue information, such as Martian landscapes, because the white balancing tends to overcompensate for the low inherent blue content."

The space agency also released a real-colour version which shows the mountain as if it was taken by "a typical smart phone".


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  • Non-Habitable Rock vs. Habitable Rock

    This set of images compares rocks seen by NASA's Opportunity rover (left) and Curiosity rover (right) at two different parts of Mars. The rocks observed by Opportunity were determined to have been uninhabitable due to high acidity, but the rocks observed by Curiosity were likely submerged in a more neutral liquid environment, raising the possibility that they could have once hosted life.

  • Drill Sample

    This image from Curiosity shows the first sample of Mars rock extracted by the rover's drill.

  • X-ray Diffraction Patterns

    X-ray diffraction patterns of samples from two different areas on Mars' surface. On the left, a windswept, rocky environment that was likely uninhabitable; on the right, a lake-bed environment with likely neutral pH that may have been capable of supporting life.

  • Earth Analog

    A modern, Earth analog to the area NASA's Curiosity rover is currently exploring. Left, clay-bearing lake sediments exposed in a pit in southern Australia. Right, a core sample from the lakebed.

  • Soil Quality

    Left, a rock abraded by instruments on the Opportunity rover, showing reddish brown soil indicative of hematite, a substance not especially conducive to hosting life. Right, a hole drilled by Curiosity, showing the greyish, iron-rich rock underneath, which may be more compatible with habitability.

  • Curiosity Neighborhood Map

    This map depicts the area in Gale Crater where the Curiosity touched down. The "John Klein Rock" is where Curiosity drilled its first soil sample.

  • Chemical Analysis

    A chemical analysis of a sample taken by Curiosity indicates the presence of water, carbon dioxide, oxygen, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide released on heating.

  • Carbon-Compound Analysis

    The "John Klein" sample reveals the presence of simple carbon-containing compounds chloro- and dichloromethane in Mars' soil. These detections indicate that the analysis instruments are functioning properly and can continue searching for organic compounds.