This 'Thrilling Image' Shows the Martian Hills Where the Curiosity Rover Is Going

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It's been a few days since the Curiosity rover sent back a stunning image of the Martian landscape. We were getting impatient, actually. But no longer! Check out this view of the lower reaches of Mt. Sharp, which the rover uploaded late to JPL.

This is our best view yet of the layered formations to which the Rover is headed. John Grotzinger, project scientist of the Mars Science Laboratory, called it a "thrilling image" in a teleconference with reporters this afternoon. 

"If the surface of the crater looks like the Mojave," Grotzinger said, "This looks more like the Four Corners area of the Western US, or Sedona Arizona, buttes and mesas."

Grotzinger followed up on the photo later in the call. "These are the foothills of Mt. Sharp," he said. "There are hills there that are the size of 2, 3, 4 story buildings with canyons running through them."

Here's some context for the image above. It's taken roughly in the area of the red box, based on Grotzinger's direction.

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The new image is a much better view of the area than we previously had, as you can see from the decidedly lower-resolution (and grayscale!) panorama that was released earlier this week below.

The top image is probably taken from near where you see the red box in the panorama below.

And, this is roughly the direction that the Rover is looking, towards its target area.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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