Standing on Mars

By Phil Plait | October 17, 2012 7:00 am

What would it look like to stand on Mars? Probably like this:

[I had to shrink this image considerably to fit the width of my blog; click to properly enaresenate.]

Space enthusiast Denny Bauer created this spectacular panorama of the Martian landscape using images from the Curiosity rover; he arduously stitched raw images together in Photoshop. The original shots were taken on Sol 64 (October 10, 2012; a "sol" is one Mars day and is slightly longer than an Earth day) using Curiosity’s MASTCAM.

The view is wonderful: you can see small rocks in the foreground, all kinds of geology as you let your eye move upwards, and then finally the horizon and the central mountains of Gale Crater, Curiosity’s home, looming in the distance. It almost looks like a dusty summer day in northern California… except it’s the cold, distant, almost airless yet still dust-stormy surface of another planet.

Not only that, but Denny made an even bigger, high-resolution image made of 65 subimages which I have no hope of showing you here. You can take a look at it at that link, or you can go to the 100+ megapixel pan-and-scan version where you can surf around the surface of Mars. It’s tremendous.

Looking at this image I was thinking of what it would be like to stand there – properly outfitted in an insulated pressure suit, of course. And then I saw this 3D anaglyph picture Denny put together and really felt like I was standing on the Red Planet:

If you have red/cyan glasses, click that to get a bigger view and soak it in. He did a fantastic job of matching up the images (from Sol 60 using NAVCAM shots), and there’s no trace of the usual color edges you see in such images. It really is like you’re standing there!

Image credit: Denny Bauer, used with permission.

Related Posts:

Wheels on Mars
One small tread for Curiosity, one giant leap for roverkind
Curiosity’s self-portrait
Curiosity looks Sharp
Now you will feel the firepower of a fully armed and operational Mars rover
Gallery – Curiosity’s triumphant first week on Mars

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (31)

  1. Valhar2000

    How accurate are the colors in the images taken with that camera? How close is this to the colors you would actually see if you were there?

  2. ;p)

    Your Blog Rocks~

    For me, looks like the south western desert lands, say-New Mexico, Luna County. Now when I go out rock hunting in my earth deserts, I can look out, and pretend I am on Mars. ;p)


  3. What would it look like to stand on Mars?

    Surely that depends on exactly where on Mars you’re standing and at what local time? 😉

    Stand on the polar cap and you’ll see very different scenes to those, say, standing at the top of Olympus Mons or the bottom of Valles Marineris and the martian nights, twilights and sol-times would all have their subtle and unsubtle variations to say nothing of the conditions during versus outside its occasional planet wide dust storms! 😮

    Such nitpicky pedantry aside though very impressive work. Great image. :-)

  4. John H

    Looks a lot like some parts of Nevada.

    Oh dear…

  5. David


    While I appreciate the use of the Greek name for the god the Romans knew as Mars, I can’t be the only one who read that as “enarsenate”. Which, really, should be used to make pictures of Uranus larger. #yesIknowIm12

  6. eyesoars

    Just for reference’ sake, the atmospheric pressure there on Mars is probably on par with the atmospheric pressure that Felix Baumgartner experienced in the high altitude portions of his flight and jump (where the minimum was about 0.07psi = ~ 480Pa).

    Wikipedia lists the pressure there as 400 – 870 Pa, which works out to about 0.058 – 0.13psi.

  7. Chris

    @1 Valhar2000
    They have color standards on the rover so they can take a picture of that and be able to adjust the pictures in case the camera drifts with temperature for example, to give a true color representation of what humans would actually see. So it’s as accurate as we can probably get.

  8. Adam

    That 3D image is amazing. If only it were bigger. The strangest part about Mars is how Un-alien it looks. Like a previous commenter said it looks like Nevada. The fact that it looks just like a desert on earth, and not some bizarre other world is the most fascinating part to me.

  9. Keith Bowden

    I think I see a Thark hiding behind a rock; we must be close to Helium. :)

  10. Hello,
    ist that the place where they found that litter?
    They should look out for a McMars or Marsking
    “station” :=)

  11. Bruce

    So that’s what it looks like, but what does it sound like?
    Is there any noise? No trees for the wind to whisper through…

  12. benny

    “enaresenate” – say what?

  13. oldebabe

    David, in what way is Ares Uranus?

  14. Keith Hearn

    Northern California? I think you meant southern California. The only part of northern California that looks anything like that is a sliver in the northeast, between the Sierras and Nevada. Northern California looks more like the south of France. There are large parts of southern California that look like this, though. This looks a lot like the high desert, minus a few tumbleweeds and Joshua Trees.

  15. Keith Hearn (15): I lived in northern California for 6 years, and saw plenty of places that looked like this in the central valley in late summer. Also in the hills not far from Sonoma County.

  16. uudale

    I know the color question was addressed earlier, but I have a question regarding how bright the daylight is in this picture, it looks almost as bright as the day does here on Earth. I know the Martian atmospheric density is something like less than 1/100 that of Earth, so the question is, how much atmosphere do you need to scatter the sunlight enough to make it look as bright as daylight on Earth?

  17. Andrei

    @14 oldebabe – maybe you misread what David said. He said en-arse-nate, not en-ares-enate and hence the reference to Youran… er…Uranus
    Now on a more serious note – the first time when I saw Mars Pathfinder’s pictures I said they look alot like Earth but upon thinking, I’m sure the that standing there it will be even more baffling. At first impression, the place would look like Earth, but it will be very cold and when you step on those rocks, in that dust and sand, with the low gravity… I just dream that I could go there….

  18. mike burkhart

    Great , but I wish I was actully standing on Mars. Well untill we go there we’ll just have to imange.

  19. Denny

    Thanks all for looking! I get a kick out of pouring through the data that curiosity has sent back and finding good stuff to “enpanoramify” and 3D-ize.

  20. #13 Benny:
    Yawn – here we go yet again.
    This is a running joke between Dr. Plait and his readers. It began, a long time ago, with him using the made-up word “embiggen”, which I gather comes from The Simpsons. Now he makes up similar verbs, appropriate to the subject matter – in this case, “enaresenate”, as Ares is the Greek name for Mars.

  21. Nice 3-D effect. I can rock my head side to side and the perspective changes as I pivot. Good work.

  22. Kevin M

    Halfway between LA and Vegas.

  23. Dave

    Looks like the back blocks in Afghanistan along the central plains areas of Oruzgan and Helmand.

  24. Nigel Depledge

    David (5) said:

    While I appreciate the use of the Greek name for the god the Romans knew as Mars, I can’t be the only one who read that as “enarsenate”. Which, really, should be used to make pictures of Uranus larger. #yesIknowIm12

    In fact, arsenate is a genuine term in chemistry. It refers to the trivalent anion AsO4.

  25. carroll price

    Computer generated graphics are simply awesome.

  26. Reidh

    If it looks like a flash flood used to wash through there, and it smells like a… it looks like that.

  27. Reidh

    the anaglyph looks just like the high desert seen from the 138 traveling west to east along the L.A. County border.

  28. The silence would be deafening. No wind, No trees. Only the stars to wander the sky.


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