How big is Mount Sharp? A comparison with mountains on Earth

The best view of Mount Sharp from Curiosity so far. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Mount Sharp is a large mountain in the centre of Gale crater on Mars, where the Curiosity rover landed a few days ago. Composed of many sedimentary layers, it provides a geological record of Mars’ history going back billions of years. But how large is it? It might be hard to tell from the initial raw images sent back by Curiosity so far, but it is big, really big.

Comparison of Mount Sharp with some mountains on Earth. The tallest portion of each mountain is shown to scale. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

At about 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles) tall, it is larger than any mountain in the United States except for Mount McKinley. In the next days and weeks, higher-resolution and colour images will be taken by Curiosity, and as Mount Sharp is a primary target of the rover (yes, it will go mountain climbing!), it should be quite an adventure.

New Curiosity rover panorama of ‘Mojave Desert’ landing site on Mars

A portion of the new 360˚ panorama showing part of the mountainous crater rim in the distance.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

As the Curiosity rover starts using more of its many cameras, it continues to send back even better photos of its landing site in Gale crater and the mountainous terrain around it.

In the new 360˚ panorama just released, taken by the Mastcam cameras, there are incredible high-resolution views of the hilly crater wall in the distance and the lower portion of Mount Sharp inside the crater (similar images of the top part of Mount Sharp will follow soon). The panorama is black and white, but colour images will also follow later.

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Curiosity rover photographed descending on its parachute

Curiosity descends to the Martian surface beneath its parachute in this image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The inset magnified image shows detail on both the parachute and back shell, although the thin parachute cords can’t be seen. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona

While the Curiosity rover is sending back some amazing images of its landing place on Mars, another orbiting spacecraft took its own awesome photo – showing Curiosity descending to the Martian surface, hanging below its huge parachute.

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High-resolution view inside Gale crater

A small portion of the “oblique view” image of Mount Sharp and surrounding terrain in Gale crater. Credit: NASA / JPL

A new “oblique view” image has been posted on the HiRISE website showing an area inside Gale crater, the landing spot of the Curiosity rover. The high-resolution image, taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, shows a portion of Mount Sharp and the surrounding terrain of layers, canyons, buttes and sand dunes. The viewing angle is 45˚, similar to looking out the window of an airplane. Zoom into the image to see all of the amazing detail!

Curiosity rover successfully lands on Mars!

One of the first images sent back by Curiosity, showing gravel / pebbles near one of the wheels. Part of the rim of Gale crater can be seen in the distance. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

After a nail-biting descent through the thin Martian atmosphere, the biggest and most sophisticated Mars rover so far, Curiosity, landed successfully last night inside its target zone within the huge Gale crater.

The “seven minutes of terror” during the descent turned into a celebration as signals received from the rover indicated it had performed a virtually flawless landing – amazing considering that the technique, using the “sky crane” to gently lower the rover to the surface, had never been used before until now.

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Curiosity’s landing on Mars: only two days left until ‘seven minutes of terror’

Artist’s illustration of the Curiosity rover on Mars. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

There are now only two days left until Curiosity, the biggest and most complex Mars rover yet, attempts what is also the most complicated landing so far. It will be lowered to the surface via cables hanging down from the descent capsule – the so-called “sky crane” – a technique not used before until now.

See for the full article.


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