NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has captured new images from the Red Planet while on an expedition on Mount Sharp—an 18,000-foot mountain within the giant Gale crater that was first discovered by scientists in the 1970s. Snapped on Sept. 8 by the rover’s Mast Camera, the color pictures showcase the geological past of the region.
The color pictures are from the Murray Buttes region of the mountain, which took 2 billion years to form.
"Curiosity's science team has been thrilled to go on this road trip through a bit of the American desert Southwest on Mars," said Ashwin Vasavada, NASA’s Curiosity project scientist, in a statement.
The images show eroded ancient sandstone, from the Murray Buttes region located in lower parts of Mount Sharp, that have been deposited by winds. According to NASA, the “rock layers forming the base of Mount Sharp accumulated as sediment within ancient lakes billions of years ago.”
The images are significant, as they add to the wealth of information Curiosity has gathered. Scientists hope to learn more about the history of Mars, specifically regarding the planet’s transition from habitable conditions to existing ones.
"Studying these buttes up close has given us a better understanding of ancient sand dunes that formed and were buried, chemically changed by groundwater, exhumed and eroded to form the landscape that we see today,” said Vasavada.
Curiosity reached the Mount Sharp vicinity in 2012 and has been exploring the planet since. The rover has spent a little over a month in the buttes region and is currently exploring areas higher up on Mount Sharp.