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Looking for clues in Curiosity's photos from Mars (Google+ Hangout)

August 9, 2012 |  1:43 pm

The Mars rover Curiosity on  sent back dramatic panorama color images from the Red Planet, the latest in a series of images from the mission.

We will talk to flight director Bobak Ferdowsi, also known as NASA's "Mohawk Guy." He will discuss the mission and all the data that Curiosity is providing during a Google+ Hangout at 2 p.m. PDT.

He will be joined by Times Science Writer Amina Khan, who will have the latest on the treasure trove of photos and how they increase our understanding of Mars.

LIVE VIDEO DISCUSSION: Meet NASA's 'Mohawk Guy' today at 2 p.m.

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 -- the kind of terrain found in the Mojave Desert.

“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.

INTERACTIVE: Curiosity, from liftoff to landing

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.

To the southwest was the supersonic parachute that had taken Curiosity out of free-fall, and was then jettisoned so it wouldn't land on top of the rover.

PHOTOS: Mars rover mission

To the southeast was the heat shield, which soared to temperatures as high as 3,800 degrees and was then ditched so Curiosity could turn on its radar to navigate its landing.

And to the northwest was the craft that had deposited Curiosity on the surface. Known as the "sky crane," it was the remnants of the final stage of the rover's intricate descent.