Martian beach

Yesterday’s Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA was an image from the Curiosity rover showing what was at some point in the past very probably a beach on Mars and before that the bottom of a lake. NASA is confident enough in its analysis of the terrain that it has named the location Ogunquit Beach.

The YouTube clip below is interactive, provided you have a browser that supports 360-degree images. (Safari doesn’t appear to work, but Chrome and Firefox do.) Just click the play button, then after it loads click on the picture and drag it around. It’s a mosaic of many individual photos, so expect some blank areas. Note that by clicking the dashed box icon at the lower right you can make the picture full screen.


Incidentally, Curiosity was expected to work for only about 90 martian days (“sols”), after which the solar panels would be too covered with wind-blown dust to produce enough power. Instead it’s still roving after more than 13 years. Somehow the solar panels keeping getting the dust cleaned off them, sometimes overnight and sometimes over a period of a few days, in so-called “cleaning events.” This is most likely caused by high winds (which would feel like gentle breezes on Earth, no matter what The Martian implied) combined with going up and down hills, thus tilting the panels (see this 2004 article in New Scientist), but of course on the Internet it’s been ascribed to conscious extraterrestrial help. I suspect the blank bits of the image below will be ascribed by some to censorship of areas showing aliens with squeegees.

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