SCIENCE

Mars Panorama PHOTOS Show Mount Sharp As Seen By NASA's Curiosity Rover

03/18/2013 04:34 pm ET

New photos taken by NASA's Curiosity rover give an awe-inspiring look at Aeolis Mons, a.k.a. Mount Sharp, which rises 18,000 feet up from the Red Planet's Gale Crater. In base-to-summit terms, that's taller than earth's highest mountain, Mount Everest. (Everest reaches a higher elevation but only because its base is higher up than Mount Sharp's.)

Have a look:

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mars panorama

Think this looks like earth? That's because the raw image has been "white-balanced" to make it appear more like our own planet.

"White-balanced versions help scientists recognize rock materials based on their terrestrial experience. The Martian sky would look like more of a butterscotch color to the human eye," according to NASA.

Here's the raw image, which looks a little less inviting:

mars panorama

In a few months, Curiosity will head for the mountain, where it will analyze the soil and continue to provide insights about Mars' history. Until then, the rover will remain in Yellowknife Bay , the region of crater where it took a soil sample suggesting that that ancient Mars was habitable.

The sample contained sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorous and carbon -- critical building blocks of life.

An ancient streambed, analyzed in September, also contained minerals likely to have formed in the presence of "relatively fresh water," according to another NASA statement.

The photos were released on March 15.

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