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Curiosity photos shed new light on Mars

NASA on Thursday released panorama color images from the Red Planet.

In a Google+ chat (see below) flight director Bobak Ferdowsi discussed the photos and how they are helping NASA's understanding of Mars. He also talked about some of the images we can expect to see in the coming days and weeks.

Several high-resolution images from Mars were released by NASA on Wednesday. Black-and-white photos stitched together from Curiosity’s cameras show gravelly terrain with what looks like well-cut, pyramidal mountains in the background.

“You’ve been hearing us saying, ‘Just wait till you see the good stuff.’ Well, this is the good stuff,” said Mike Malin, lead scientist for the rover's MARDI descent imager.

Malin, who also works on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, pointed out a colleague’s find from the satellite: six dark spots showing the final resting place of the rover spacecraft’s half-dozen, 55-pound tungsten slugs jettisoned before its supersonic parachute deployed.

PHOTOS: Mars rover mission

Finding the slugs will help scientists better understand how inert objects fall, Malin said.

On Tuesday, JPL engineers received a new image of the landing zone taken by an orbiting satellite. With tongue in cheek, this image was labeled the "crime scene" photo, because it not only showed Curiosity on the ground, but all of the pieces of the spacecraft that the rover had discarded on its way down.

-- Amina Khan, Scott Gold and Shelby Grad

Photo: A cut-out from a color panorama from Mars. Credit: NASA

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