Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now  arrow.png

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

    Please leave this field empty

Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Pretty pictures: Curiosity working late

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

07-06-2013 23:47 CDT

Topics: mission status, pretty pictures, Mars, Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory)

I post these pictures for no other reason than they're cool. Here's a photo of the recent Cumberland drill hole, taken after dark by the MAHLI camera on the end of Curiosity's arm. Note the line of scorched dots down the back wall of the drill hole -- those are Chemcam shot points. Pew pew pew!

Cumberland drill hole after dark, Curiosity sol 292 (June 2, 2013)


Cumberland drill hole after dark, Curiosity sol 292 (June 2, 2013)

MAHLI can take photos like this after dark because it's equipped with a set of LEDs. Here they are, blinking on and off in a test during Curiosity's first use of the arm:

MAHLI wink

NASA / JPL / fredk

MAHLI wink

But this sol 292 observation gets cooler, because they used Mastcam to shoot a photo of MAHLI illuminating the ground at night. The Mastcam photos have a lot of speckle noise because the cameras really weren't intended to be used under such weak illumination conditions; they had to do a long exposure, I'm sure. I did some work on this image to reduce the noise, though I had to be careful because one of the wonderful things about this photo is the shadows thrown by the little spheroidal nodules protruding from the otherwise flat surface of the rock, and my despeckling filters wanted to get rid of those shadows, too.

MAHLI works late

NASA / JPL / MSSS / Emily Lakdawalla

MAHLI works late
On sol 292 (June 2, 2013), Curiosity performed some nighttime MAHLI close-up imaging of the drill hole at Cumberland. The scene is illuminated only by the light-emitting diodes (LEDs) next to the MAHLI optics.

A very creative member of the public figured out he could use the various MAHLI images of the inside of the Cumberland drill hole to produce an "unwrapped" view of the walls of the hole. This is actually something geologists do with boreholes all the time; they map rock contacts and veins and figure out which way they're tilted. It's unlikely that the unwrapping below is geometrically perfect but it is a mighty cool view into our little drillhole on Mars.

Cumberland unwrapped

NASA / JPL / MSSS / Vitaly Egorov

Cumberland unwrapped
The interior of the drill hole at Cumberland, seen by Opportunity using MAHLI nighttime imaging on sol 292 (June 2, 2013). Originally posted at
See other posts from June 2013


Or read more blog entries about: mission status, pretty pictures, Mars, Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory)


Bob Ware: 06/08/2013 04:30 CDT

Definitely cool images. Has or is Curiosity going to take a panarama shot of the night sky? It would be nice, aka cool, to see the stars from there if the camera is capable of doing so. (forgot) A sky without light pollution is so cool.

Gerald: 06/14/2013 04:25 CDT

Near the top border of the sol 165 MAHLI image a little right of the center, you may notice a faint bluish diagonal line. That's how stars look like on MAHLI images.

Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Blog Search


Advocate for Space!

Fifteen years ago, Society members and passionate space advocates like you helped save the Pluto mission. Now we can do the same for missions to Europa and Mars.

Join over 27,600 people who have completed their petition and consider a donation to support advocacy efforts.

Sign Our Petition

Featured Images

LightSail-B on the bench
Blue Origin New Shepard after first landing
New Shepard test flight and booster landing
Suni Williams and Doug Hurley in Crew Dragon
More Images

Featured Video

MISSIONS: Dawn In The Asteroid Belt With Marc Rayman

Watch Now

Space in Images

Pretty pictures and
awe-inspiring science.

See More

Selfies to Space!

Take flight with a selfie on LightSail™ in 2016!

Send a Selfie Now

Connect With Us

Facebook! Twitter! Google+ and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!