From a ridgeline vantage point overlooking slopes, valleys and plains, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has returned its latest color panorama of the martian landscape.
The approximately true color image shows a full 360-degree view from a site informally named "Larry's Lookout," about halfway up "Husband Hill."
Spirit's "Lookout" panorama is available online.
Dr. Jim Bell of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., lead scientist for the panoramic cameras on both the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers, said, "Spirit and the rover team worked hard over many weeks to get to this vantage point along the flanks of Husband Hill. The rugged ridge and valley terrain seen here is similar in some respects to the view seen months earlier at the 'West Spur,' but the chemistry and mineralogy here are significantly different. Specifically, some of the areas seen here amid the outcrop rocks and in places where the subsurface was exposed by the rover wheels contain the highest sulfur abundances ever measured by Spirit."
The view includes the summit of Husband Hill about 200 meters (about 660 feet) southward and about 45 meters (about 150 feet) higher. As Spirit continues uphill, scientists are looking for evidence about whether the intensity of water-related alteration increases with elevation or whether there are pockets of more heavily altered rocks and soils scattered throughout the hills.
Spirit's panoramic camera took more than 300 individual frames between Feb. 27 and March 2 that are combined into the big picture. Downloading the frames to Earth took several weeks, and processing took additional time. Imaging specialists at Cornell and at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., calibrated the color and assembled the image.
Spirit and its twin, Opportunity, successfully completed three-month primary missions a year ago. In extended missions since then, they have been exploring at increasing distances from their landing sites.
Explore further: Could 'green rust' be a catalyst for Martian life?