Curiosity seems to be on Tatooine

The Mars Science Laboratory “Curiosity” continues to return astonishing images of its environment as it tootles around Mount Sharp at the heart of Gale Crater.  The latest images look straight out of Star Wars, at least until you look a little more closely.

These images come from a place dubbed “Murray Buttes”, and they look as desolate as the spots in Tunisia where the first Star Wars movie recorded its images of Tatooine.  But of course they are far more desolate than that.  Unbelievably dry by comparison to even the deserts of the Atacama and central Antarctica, with fine layers formed by the deposition of sand by wind.  But even so, the images are truly spectacular, suitable for a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster, or, as NASA put it, comparable to the pictures the National Park Service has been putting together to celebrate their hundredth anniversary.  They’re quite breathtaking.

The foothills of Mount Sharp, with the rim of Gale Crater in the distance.  It's not fog obscuring it, of course.  It's dust suspended in the Martian air.

The foothills of Mount Sharp, with the rim of Gale Crater in the distance. It’s not fog obscuring it, of course. It’s dust suspended in the Martian air.

Portions of the Stinson Formation jut out from sand deposited in the Murray Buttes region. The Stinson Formation was studied up close by Curiosity earlier in the year, at another location at Murray Buttes.

A close-up look at the breathtaking clarity of the Stinson Formation.  Thin layers of rock, displayed for all to see, a cross-section of geological history.

A close-up look at the breathtaking clarity of the Stinson Formation. Thin layers of rock, displayed for all to see, a cross-section of geological history.

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