The bright blue spot on the Mars surface is NASA’s Curiosity rover, spotted by its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter this month. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA released a photo this week that could be the most meta thing that has ever happened on Mars: The spacecraft orbiting the planet snapped a picture of the rover exploring the surface.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter used its powerful telescope from the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera to capture this image of the Curiosity rover handling the rough terrain of Mount Sharp, the space agency said. The blue dot of Curiosity stands out against the reds and tans of the area’s rocks and sand.

It was not the first time the orbiter’s HiRISE camera captured Curiosity down below — NASA said that has happened a few times a year since the rover landed near Mount Sharp almost five years ago.

Curiosity, which for scale is about the size of a car, is ascending Mount Sharp as it investigates the soil on Mars for clues about the environment it once hosted and whether it could have supported alien life.

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Scientists have already started analyzing samples taken from the lower levels of the mountain, which they say show a diverse environment that evolved over time. The lowest levels of Mount Sharp are made of sediment that accumulated the earliest in the mountain’s history while the area was underwater. The rover sampled soil from there that had a lot of iron and magnesium, rock that is similar to the volcanic kind you would find in Hawaii today, suggesting a similar source. At higher elevations of Mount Sharp, there were some minerals that would have accumulated in more acidic water and others that would have built up in water with a more neutral pH level — an example of the way the environment changed in this location over time.

The water with the more neutral pH would have been most comfortable for alien life to form and thrive since it is similar to what we would find on Earth today although more acidic water does not rule out extraterrestrials — recent research has shown that early life on Earth could have evolved in more acidic oceans.

Before it began climbing the mountain, Curiosity examined the sand dunes in the area to learn more about environmental conditions on Mars like wind. The rover took soil samples to see how the grains and minerals had been organized by the blowing wind and took a closer look at the physical characteristics of the sand dunes, which vary by place.

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Last month, Curiosity passed through an area with linear sand dunes where the peaks in the sand run in lines. But shortly before that, and slightly farther away from the base of the mountain, it rolled through a place where the dunes were shaped like crescents. Scientists are hoping to use data the rover collected to learn more about the complex wind patterns that would create such varying conditions. That data include photos of the landscape taken over time, as wind moves soil along. Curiosity has a wind detection device as part of its onboard weather instruments, but it doesn't work.