Spectacular ‘Sideways Glance’ of Mt. Sharp in Gale Crater

Article written: 17 Aug , 2012
Updated: 23 Dec , 2015

Yep, you really want to click on this link to see the full color version of this great oblique view of Mt. Sharp (a.k.a. Aeolis Mons) in Gale Crater, taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Or you can click here to see the full “raw” strip from the spacecraft.

“The viewing angle is 45 degrees, like looking out an airplane window,” wrote HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen on the HiRISE website. McEwen noted that this color version doesn’t show the Curiosity rover or the hardware left over from the landing on Mars, but it does provide a great view of Gale Crater’s central mound.

So how “true” is the color in this image?

“It may be close, but not true,” Christian Schaller from the HiRISE team told Universe Today. Schaller pointed out the description (pdf) of color in HiRISE images from the HiRISE team:

It isn’t natural color, as seen by normal human eyes, because the IR, RED, and BG channels are displayed in red, green, and blue colors. For the Extras products, each color band is individually stretched to maximize contrast, so the colors are enhanced differently for each image based on the color and brightness of each scene. Scenes with dark shadows and bright sunlit slopes or with both bright and dark materials are stretched less, so the colors are less enhanced than is the case over bland scenes.

Jim Bell, the lead scientist for the Pancam color imaging system on the Mars Exploration Rovers, said he likes to use the term “approximate true color” because the MER panoramic camera images are estimates of what humans would see if they were on Mars. Other colleagues, Bell said, use “natural color.”

“We actually try to avoid the term ‘true color’ because nobody really knows precisely what the ‘truth’ is on Mars,” Bell told Universe Today in 2007 for an article about the art of extraterrestrial photography. In fact, Bell pointed out, on Mars, as well as Earth, color changes all the time: whether it’s cloudy or clear, the Sun is high or low, or if there are variations in how much dust is in the atmosphere. “Colors change from moment to moment. It’s a dynamic thing. We try not to draw the line that hard by saying ‘this is the truth!’”

For more great shots from HiRISE, check out their website.

Source: HiRISE

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14 Responses

  1. Dampe says

    Hardly fascinating…


  2. No Name says

    Great resolution. There are some nice layered deposits as well.

  3. I could spend hours examining this image…And probably will.

  4. Brent Bozo says

    Nope, no Indain cave dwellings or horse drawings on that shot so far..But i’m still looking…Wow!!

  5. Jay Graf says

    This is amazing! I could star at it for hours as wel.

    What is the blueish terrain on the last third from the right of the image made of?

    • danangel says

      When you magnify it, that bluish area looks just like a shallow lake. Not trying to start any rumors, just stating what it looks like.

      • Jay Graf says

        I agree with this. Everything about the right side looks like water once flowed through it. This is why I’m curious to know what the blue terrain is made of… because it seems like an ancient dried up lake.

  6. Mean_deviatioN says

    “Mt. Sharp (a.k.a. Aeolis Mons)”. That surely should be, “Mt Sharp (correctly, Aeolis Mons)”, or, “Aeolis Mons (a.k.a. Mount Sharp)”. After all, from the horse’s mouth: “Mount Sharp is only an informal name,” says Guy Webster of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory”. After all, “the
    International Astronomical Union (IAU) selected ‘Aeolis Mons’ as the
    name for the mountain”. See: http://content.usatoday.com/co

  7. Bill_S says

    This is beyond amazing! I can’t believe all of the geological features in this single crater. Does anyone have any links to other HiRISE images like this?

  8. Peristroika says

    I wanna play on a blue sand dune!

  9. Brent Bozo says

    I FOUND The Indian Village!!!

    5 hut’s in circle just “right” of the Large Rock that protrudes out of the
    light tan Scale rock formation mount,

    Or just right of the Large protrusion with dark shadow 1/4 way into the photo on the top
    full screen view,zoom to right side of it.If you went to dunes 1/2 way in the pic ,went to

    Or the dark area at 1’o’clock on the full frame mountain’s upper circle
    half at the left the full size view,look at the right that mount zoomed in some,5 dots in circle

    All same location list above.

    The Village is just Right of the Mountain with the lounge chair looking shadow, if zoom in. it’s a Circled encampment???…8^o
    Or Mars stoneendgie?
    Lucky rock formation?

  10. Tim OBrien says

    Hopefully we’ll someday get around to sending a flying camera plane to Mars to fly over all that at 500ft…

  11. minghao579 says


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