The Mars rover Curiosity spent the day banging on a new rock, then paused to take a selfie. The original portrait is a mosaic of frames reminiscent of the rover seen through alien eyes. It's only after aligning, smoothing, and joining that the charismatic rover is revealed.

Curiosity's self-portrait on sol 177 is composed of 64 individual photographs. Image credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS/Emily Lakdawalla


Because our not-so-little rover is so big, her arms aren't long enough to get all of her in one shot, but if she moves the camera angle parallax will distort everything. Taking what looks like a single photograph is an act of mechanical dexterity.

Photographs by NASA are in the public domain, so how come I list all these other organizations and even individual names in the image credits? Those photos do not come back to Earth fully formed and processed, ready for our enjoyment. That processing can take a lot of effort (that thankfully involves more digital processing than scissors and glue), and even artistic interpretation. Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society has more on how that fragmented collection of photos is smoothed into a beautiful portrait of a robotic explorer on the red planet.


Self-portrait on sol 613. Image credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS/Doug Ellison

Want more Curiosity photography? Check out some hard-working wheels, or asteroids as seen from another planet.