The view from Rocknest… on Mars

by Matthew Cobb

Last night NASA released this billion pixel image of the Martian landscape, from where Curiosity is sitting at the moment, in a place called Rocknest (it’s called that by NASA; we’re not sure what the indigenous inhabitants call it, what with them having a hundred words for ‘red rock’ and all).

Go on, click on that link and have fun. It’s astonishing – you will be investigating the surface of Mars from your earthbound desk, or even more amazing, a handheld device! We may not have jetpacks or flying cars, but the 21st century has certainly delivered on its promises here!

There are several different versions of the image, either a cylindrical one, or a straight zoomable/scrollable one. You may need Flash (grr) or Silverlight installed. Here’s what the opening page looks like:


And because the image is so dense, you find all sorts of weird things in there. Here’s something I noticed, which NASA has called a ‘white shiny object’. It’s to the left of Curiosity’s ‘head’, in the Panoramic viewer. See if you can find it. What is it?


And even weirder, this Martian bird, spotted by NASA in the sky about 15% in from the right:


And here’s something that really IS true. It’s a dry waterfall on Mars, spotted by the HI RISE satellite in the Southern Branch of Kasei Valles (there’s a stereo pair of these images, so if you follow the links you’ll be able to look at it in 3-D…):

Dry Falls in the Southern Branch of Kasei Valles


  1. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Re the “ooh, shiny” thing, Curiosity has been known to leave high tech droppings.

    Or at least it is much more likely from C than from the bird.

  2. mecwordpress
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    That “shiny object” looks to me like a flat rock face with reflective minerals, much like a piece of mica. Any word from NASA on what they think it is?

    • McWaffle
      Posted June 20, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      It says on the site that they suspect it’s debris from the landing.

  3. TJR
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    This is much better than jetpacks.

  4. mecwordpress
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Ah, that “bird in flight” is the very same green smudge that can be seen in several other shots within the composite. Probably a space booger on the lander’s lens.

  5. Mary Canada
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Awesome! Thanks for posting

  6. madscientist
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    If it’s a ‘waterfall’ it can’t be dry. If it’s dry, it’s definitely not a waterfall. Even on earth a diverted river or a dried up river doesn’t make a ‘dry waterfall’ – it simply makes for no waterfall(s).

  7. Jim Thomerson
    Posted June 22, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Once, during Christmas break, we were collecting fishes in northern Alabama. We were in bathing suits, and it was pretty cold. We were seining this little stream and came around a bend where there had been a waterfall. It was an icefall rather than a waterfall, which caused us to reconsider our activities. We packed up our gear and took off for Florida.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted June 25, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      Was Francis Collins there?

  8. Posted June 23, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    If, like me, you have had issues with Flash on a Mac and would rather not install it, you can use Chrome to look at Flash stuff as it has a built-in player. I just shut it down and use Firefox afterwards for everything else.

    Also – oh wow – Mars!

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