Curiosity sends back stunning new panoramic image of Martian mountain TALLER than Mount Everest

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Curiosity has sent back an incredible panoramic image of the towering mountain which looms above the crater it has spent the last eight months exploring on the surface of Mars.

Aeolis Mons rises nearly three-and-a-half miles (18,000ft) from the centre of the Gale Crater, making its base to peak height greater than any mountain on Earth.

Known unofficially as Mount Sharp, the massive peak is an enormous layered-mound of eroded sediment rising above the crater floor location Curiosity has been exploring. 

Scroll down for zoomable version of the Aeolis Mons panorama

 
This mosaic of images from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows Aeolis Mons in a white-balanced colour adjustment that makes the sky look overly blue but shows the terrain as if under Earth-like lighting

Mountain on Mars: This mosaic of images from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows Aeolis Mons in a white-balanced colour adjustment that makes the sky look overly blue but shows the terrain as if under Earth-like lighting. White-balanced versions help scientists recognise rock materials

The lower slopes of Mount Sharp remain the final destination for the mission, though the rover will first spend many more weeks around a location called 'Yellowknife Bay'.

That's where it recently found evidence of a past environment which could have been once favourable for microbial life.

A pair of mosaics, just released by Nasa, assembled from dozens of telephoto images taken by Curiosity shows Mount Sharp in dramatic detail.

The component images were taken by the 100-millimeter-focal-length telephoto lens camera mounted on the right side of Curiosity's remote sensing mast on September 20 last year, the 45th Martian day of the rover's mission on the Red Planet.

To a human observer on Mars, the sky over the planet would look like more of a butterscotch colour. A version of the mosaic with raw colour, as a typical smart-phone camera would show the scene, has also been released.

In both versions, the sky has been filled out by extrapolating colour and brightness information from the portions of the sky that were captured in images of the terrain.

Nasa's Mars Science Laboratory project is using Curiosity and the rover's ten science instruments to investigate environmental history within Gale Crater.

Aeolis Mons forms the central peak within the crater and is located around 5.08°S 137.85°E, rising 5.5 km (18,000 ft) high from the valley floor.

It is about the same height as Mons Huygens, the tallest lunar mountain, and taller than Mons Hadley, which was  visited by lunar explorers aboard Apollo 15 in 1971.

Earth's highest mountain, Mount Everest, by comparison, rises to an altitude of 29,000ft above sea level but is only 15,000ft base-to-peak.

Just last week Nasa announced that analysis of a rock sample collected by the rover found key chemical ingredients that show Mars could once have supported primitive life.

Scientists identified sulphur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon - some of the key chemical ingredients for life - in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed.

The data indicated the Yellowknife Bay area the rover is exploring was the end of an ancient river system or an intermittently wet lake bed that could have provided chemical energy and other favourable conditions for microbes.

'We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and supportive of life, that probably if this water was around and you had been there, you would have been able to drink it,' said project scientist John Grotzinger at the time.

Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington, added: 'A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment.

'From what we know now, the answer is yes.'


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