1. The Mars Rover selfie
Your selfie game might be lighting up your social media, but this guy has you beat. It’s NASA’s Curiosity rover, taking a selfie on Mars. In this self-portrait, you can see Curiosity at the Vera Rubin Ridge.
Conspiracy theories regarding the real truth behind space exploration and lunar landings have been making the rounds for years, and pictures like this one don’t help. It looks exactly as if someone had taken a picture of a robot on a mound in their yard.
2. Alien Ant Farm?
The perfectly rounded mound of red dirt, the precisely centered hole – we’ve all seen this, or something extremely similar here on Earth. It leads us to ask the inevitable: are there ants in space?
Sadly, no. This isn’t proof of an interstellar ant colony. It’s a close-up of a 2-inch deep hole that was drilled on Sol 2057 by NASA’s Curiosity rover. Mars explorers won’t need bug spray, at least not yet.
3. Kinda looks like Sedona
It looks like the setting to almost any movie set in the dessert. The barren landscape and reddish dunes were made to be crossed by an intrepid explorer on horseback. And if you look at it long enough, you might even be convinced that you’re seeing a water mirage at the base of the dunes. But don’t expect to see any explorers, or their horses, here.
That’s because this isn’t a terrestrial sand dune. It’s Mount Sharp, as seen by the Mars Curiosity Rover. Still, it doesn’t take much to imagine humans climbing these dunes, does it? It leaves us wondering just how different the landscapes of these two planets really are.
4. The Vera Rubin Ridge
This landscape might look like the perfect place to perfect your rock climbing skills, but you’d need more than just a good hand grip to keep you safe. You’d need a space suit and an oxygen tank, because this is one wall you won’t want to climb without safety gear. It’s the Vera Rubin Ridge on Mars, with Mount Sharp in the background, and there are no safety harnesses available.
This 2017 picture captures four geological layers that will be examined by the Mars rover mission. And that muddy terrain in the front? It’s actually the Murray formation – and it’s completely dry.
5. The Martian Grand Canyon
Does this look like your backyard after a full day of rain? Damp, dark ground with rocks that are just beginning to dry? If so, you’re not alone – plenty of people did double takes when they realized what this photo actually depicts. The Mast Camera on the Curiosity Rover captured this 360-degree mosaic looking out over Mars’ Bagnold Dunes.
Contrary to what the picture reveals, these dunes actually spread out over several miles. Evidence that there was once water on Mars? NASA isn’t saying, but this looks a lot like the Grand Canyon – which was forged by water. Coincidence?
6. Mars’ true colors
For hundreds of years, stargazers looked up and imagined the surface of the red planet. Fiery orange and flat seemed to be the general consensus. But as more and more pictures arrive from the Curiosity Rover, we’re realizing just how wrong those past observers were.
Far from orange, the Martian landscape is a swirl of browns, tans, and grays, creating an ever-changing backdrop for the pictures beamed back through space. And the planet’s surface is revealing its heights with everything from mountains to dunes to valleys, creating crests and dips all over the surface.
Mars was a mystery to ancient astronomers, but we’re lucky enough to be unraveling it – with a little robotic assistance from the rover.
7. Color-coded minerals
At first glance, this looks like a perfectly preserved fossil embedded in stone. The shiny, dark red surface even has white vein-like lines running through it. It’s tempting to jump to conclusions as to what formed this smooth oval.
But pictures can be deceiving. Not only is this not a fossil – these aren’t even its true colors. This is actually a color-enhanced image created using special filters contained in the Curiosity Rover’s mast camera (mastcam).
The whole point of this particular experiment is to reveal the presence of certain minerals in Martian rocks. Can we hope that they might reveal something else?
8. Rough around the edges
A sci-fi movie still? Or the set of a television show set in a dystopian future? The truth is even stranger – a natural rock formation on Mars. But with those steel grays and jagged edges that look more metallic than organic, no one would blame you for thinking this is a man-made formation.
Located within the Murray Buttes on lower Mount Sharp, this outcropping of layered rocks would have anyone – or any astronaut – convinced they had stumbled onto the set of a movie production.
9. Can never have too many selfies
Proving once again to be the king of selfies, Mars’ Curiosity Rover is seen here hard at work. This low-angle self portrait was created on a large rock called “Buckskin,” located on lower Mount Sharp. In it, the rover is drilling down into its rock target, presumably to take soil and mineral samples.
If the location feels familiar, it’s because there are at least a dozen places on Earth with a similar look. More proof that Mars could be a sister planet?
10. Tomorrow’s a new day
Just because NASA’s Curiosity Rover is on another planet doesn’t mean it doesn’t want to catch a romantic sunset! Unfortunately, it looks just like sunsets on Earth, so it’s another set of photos that lends itself to the infamous outer-space-versus-a-movie-set debate.
This particular set of photographs was captured on the mission’s 956th sol (1 sol = 1 day on Mars, approximately 24 hours and 39 minutes long), which took place on April 15th, 2015. The rover was stationed in Mars’ Gale Crater when it captured these fantastic shots.
No word on whether or not the rover took a date to watch the sunset.