NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Snaps Stunning Selfie With ‘Mont Mercou’

NASA Curiosity Mars Rover Mont Mercou Selfie

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used two cameras to create this selfie in front of Mont Mercou, a rock outcrop that stands 20 feet (6 meters) tall. The panorama is made up of 60 images from the MAHLI camera on the rover’s robotic arm along with 11 images from the Mastcam on the mast, or “head,” of the rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The rover also snapped a pair of panoramas to create a 3D view of the stark cliff face featured in the selfie.

At the start of March, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover began approaching an impressive rock formation that scientists dubbed “Mont Mercou,” a nickname taken from a mountain in France. Standing about 20 feet (6 meters) tall, the outcrop is captured in all its majesty in a new selfie, as well as in a pair of panoramas that offer a 3D view. The selfie shows Curiosity in front of Mont Mercou with a new drill hole nearby at a rock sample nicknamed “Nontron” – the mission’s 30th sample to date.

Curiosity’s drill powderized the sample before trickling it into instruments inside the rover so the science team could get a better understanding of the rock’s composition and what clues it might offer about Mars’ past. This area is at the transition between the “clay-bearing unit” Curiosity is departing and the “sulfate-bearing unit” that’s ahead on Mount Sharp, the 3-mile-tall (5-kilometer-tall) mountain that the rover has been rolling up since 2014. Scientists have long thought this transition might reveal what happened to Mars as it became the desert planet we see today.

Mont Mercou Panorama

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its Mastcam instrument to take the 32 individual images that make up this panorama of the outcrop nicknamed “Mont Mercou.” It took a second panorama to create a stereoscopic view. Both panoramas were taken on March 4, 2021, the 3,049th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

France’s Mont Mercou is located near the village of Nontron in the southeast of the country. The team chose Nontron-related nicknames for this part of the Red Planet because Mars orbiters detected nontronite, a type of clay mineral found close to Nontron, in the region. Surface missions assign nicknames to landmarks to provide the mission’s team members a common way to refer to rocks, soils, and other geologic features of interest.

The selfie is composed of 60 images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on the rover’s robotic arm on March 26, 2021, the 3,070th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. These were combined with 11 images taken by the Mastcam on the mast, or “head,” of the rover on March 16, 2021, the 3,060th Martian day of the mission.

Mont Mercou Mastcam Panorama

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its Mastcam instrument to take the 126 individual images that make up this 360-degree panorama on March 3, 2021, the 3,048th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity also provided a pair of panoramas using its Mastcam on March 4, 2021, the 3,049th Martian day of the mission. By shooting one panorama from about 130 feet (40 meters) away from the outcrop, then rolling to the side and shooting another from the same distance, the rover created a stereoscopic effect similar to those seen in 3D viewfinders. Studying the outcrop from more than one angle helps scientists get a better idea of the 3D geometry of Mount Mercou’s sedimentary layers. An anaglyph of the image can be viewed through red-blue glasses, which you can learn to make here.

Mont Mercou Anaglyph

Anaglyph of “Mont Mercou.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

In addition to the stereo view and the selfie, Curiosity took a 360-degree panorama of Mont Mercou and its surroundings with its Mastcam.

14 Comments on "NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Snaps Stunning Selfie With ‘Mont Mercou’"

  1. Stereoscopic image pairs can be viewed without special spectacles if the images are presented side by side. You can train your eyes to verge independently of focus. You either do this with the eyes crossed, i.e. left eye looking at right picture and vice versa, or with eyes verging outwards, i.e. left eye looking at left picture and vice versa. To learn to do this is probably quicker than making spectacles.

  2. Kenneth Fryos | March 31, 2021 at 3:02 am | Reply

    Photo’s from another world. Literally and I love it!

  3. Michael Cawood | March 31, 2021 at 5:10 am | Reply

    How is that awful shimmering image of Mont Mercou supposed to be stereo? It just makes me feel dizzy looking at it.

    • Clyde Spencer | April 1, 2021 at 7:15 pm | Reply

      Not everyone can see stereo. Even among those that can, the amount of time it takes to fuse images varies.

  4. What’s up with the tires.. do they already have holes in them?

    • Michael Foerster / SkyGuide | April 1, 2021 at 5:53 am | Reply

      Perhaps you are confusing this rover, Curiosity, with its sibling Perseverance? Curiosity has been off-roading on Mars for almost nine years, and has a few dings. Perseverance has just landed, and still has that “new rover smell”.

  5. 3-D photos are a diversion? Previous studies (two samples with X-ray diffraction) did not find a “clay bearing unit” that had any well-crystallized minerals…mostly amorphous minerals. Nontronite has yet been identified. In rocks that are billions of years old, such expandable clays should not be there. Maybe Perseverance will do some more XRD work to confirm the clay mineral composition?

  6. Pennsylvania18 | March 31, 2021 at 9:52 am | Reply

    What goes on with the wheel tread/tracks? Looks like there are some sizable holes in ’em. They get ripped up on the ground or did they take a hit on landing?

    • Michael Foerster / The SkyGuide | April 1, 2021 at 6:03 am | Reply

      Beaten up after almost nine hard years of off-roading.

      Wheels were redesigned for Curiosity’s sib, Perseverance; details here:

      The challenge for spaceflight hardware is to make things very tough AND very light; a difficult balancing act.

      Related Trivia: the previous generation of Mars rovers – Spirit & Opportunity – have a set of small square holes in each wheel to allow pebbles and dirt to escape. The holes leave a pattern in the tire tracks the rovers leave, saying in Morse code “JPL” with each wheel turn!

  7. Absurd picture!

  8. Does anyone else see the face in the dirt below the river on right side between front and rear wheel in the top of the rectangle space zoom in close it’s a face with hair parted in the middle down to neck area

  9. Babu G. Ranganathan | April 1, 2021 at 2:11 pm | Reply

    Babu G. Ranganathan*
    (B.A. Bible/Biology)


    A Newsweek article of September 21, 1998, p.12 mentions the high possibility of Earth life on Mars because of millions of tons of Earth soil ejected into space from ancient volcanic explosions. “We think there’s about 7 million tons of earth soil sitting on Mars”, says USC scientist Kenneth Nealson. “You have to consider the possibility that if we find life on Mars, it could have come from the Earth” [Weingarten, T., Newsweek, September 21, 1998, p.12]. This may also explain why life forms may exist on Venus, again because they originated from Earth.

    In the Earth’s past there was powerful volcanic activity which could have easily spewed dirt and rocks containing microbes and life into outer space which not only could have eventually reached Mars but also ended up traveling in orbit through space that we now know as meteors, comets, and asteroids. This would mean life forms found in meteorites originated from Earth in the first place.

    Secular scientists have a different explanation from creationist scientists on the volcanic eruptions of the Earth’s past. Creation scientists believe, as Genesis teaches, that as the fountains of the deep were opened to release water for the world-wide flood the force of the eruptions could have indeed spewed great amounts of earth soil into space.

    Life could not have evolved. A partially evolved cell would quickly disintegrate under the effects of random forces of the environment, especially without the protection of a complete and fully functioning cell membrane. A partially evolved cell cannot wait millions of years for chance to make it complete and living! In fact, it couldn’t have even reached the partially evolved state.

    Having the right conditions and raw material for life do not mean that life can originate or arise by chance. Stanley Miller, in his famous experiment in 1953, showed that individual amino acids (the building blocks of life) could come into existence by chance. But, it’s not enough just to have amino acids. The various amino acids that make-up life must link together in a precise sequence, just like the letters in a sentence, to form functioning protein molecules. If they’re not in the right sequence the protein molecules won’t work. It has never been shown that various amino acids can bind together into a sequence by chance to form protein molecules. Even the simplest cell is made up of many millions of various protein molecules.

    The probability of just an average size protein molecule arising by chance is 10 to the 65th power. Mathematicians have said any event in the universe with odds of 10 to 50th power or greater is impossible! The late great British scientist Sir Frederick Hoyle calculated that the odds of even the simplest cell coming into existence by chance is 10 to the 40,000th power! How large is this? Consider that the total number of atoms in our universe is 10 to the 82nd power.

    Also, what many don’t realize is that Miller had a laboratory apparatus that shielded and protected the individual amino acids the moment they were formed, otherwise the amino acids would have quickly disintegrated and been destroyed in the mix of random energy and forces involved in Miller’s experiment.

    Miller’s experiment produced equally both left-handed and right-handed amino acids, but all living things strictly require only left-handed amino acids. If a right-handed amino acid gets into the chain the protein won’t work.

    There is no innate chemical tendency for the various amino acids to bond with one another in a sequence. Any one amino acid can just as easily bond with any other. The only reason at all for why the various amino acids bond with one another in a precise sequence in the cells of our bodies is because they’re directed to do so by an already existing sequence of molecules found in our genetic code.

    Of course, once you have a complete and living cell then the genetic code and biological machinery exist to direct the formation of more cells, but how could life or the cell have naturally originated when no directing code and mechanisms existed in nature? Read my Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM.

    Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION


    * I have had the privilege of being recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who In The East” for my writings on religion and science, and I have given successful lectures (with question and answer time afterwards) defending creation from science before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities.

    • Clyde Spencer | April 1, 2021 at 7:13 pm | Reply

      “I have had the privilege of being recognized in the …”

      You are in the wrong forum for additional recognition.

  10. Whitesnake, the tires, 100%, have holes in them. Wonder if they’re still under warranty. These pics clearly show that Mars obviously had flowing liquid water. Seeing these pics truly makes one wonder what Mars must have been like with a thick atmosphere and oceans of water. Life had to have found its way on such a majestic oasis. We need to dig and drill further down; the evidence is there I can only hope it’s not just out of our reach.

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