Nasa’s Mars rover Curiosity held its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera about 27 cm away from the top of a rock called “Bathurst Inlet” for a set of eight images combined into this merged-focus view of the rock. This context image covers an area roughly 16 cm by 12 cm. Resolution is about 105 microns per pixel.
MAHLI took the component images for this merged-focus view, plus closer-up images of Bathurst Inlet, during Curiosity’s 54th Martian day, or sol (30 September 2012).
The Bathurst Inlet rock is dark grey and appears to be so fine-grained that MAHLI cannot resolve grains or crystals in it. This means that the grains or crystals, if there are any at all, are smaller than about 80 microns in size. Some windblown sand-sized grains or dust aggregates have accumulated on the surface of the rock but this surface is clean compared to, for example, the pebbly substrate below the rock (upper left and lower right in this context image).
MAHLI can do focus merging on board. The full-frame versions of the eight separate images that were combined into this view were not even returned to Earth – just the thumbnail versions. Merging the images on board reduces the volume of data that needs to be downlinked to Earth.
Image credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems