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NASA Curiosity rover marks 3,000 days on Mars with extreme panorama

What's the right gift for a 3,000-Martian-day anniversary? Rocks?

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NASA's Curiosity rover captured this Mars panorama in November 2020.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars on Aug. 6, 2012 and this week it celebrated a milestone anniversary of 3,000 Martian days living the good science life on the red planet.

A Martian day -- called a "sol"-- is slightly longer than a day on Earth, clocking in at just over 24 hours and 39 minutes. Scientists track Curiosity's activities based on sols. For example, raw images taken by the rover are tagged with the sol number, so a photo snapped on its anniversary would be tagged with "Sol 3000" as well as the corresponding Earth date.

NASA marked the special occasion with the release of a glorious panorama on Tuesday. The scenic mosaic view of Gale Crater on Mars shows part of Mount Sharp, the massive central mountain inside the crater. "Geologists were intrigued to see a series of rock 'benches' in the most recent panorama from the mission," NASA said in statement.

The sweeping panorama is made from 122 images the rover snapped on Nov. 18, 2020, which was Martian sol 2946.

Curiosity is currently heading toward a region of the crater known as the "sulfate-bearing unit." "Sulfates, like gypsum and epsom salts, usually form around water as it evaporates, and they are yet another clue to how the climate and prospects for life changed nearly 3 billion years ago," said NASA when describing the rover's journey to this new area.

NASA's only functioning Mars rover will soon be joined on the planet by its next-gen sibling when the Perseverance rover arrives in February. Long-lived Curiosity will continue to pursue its mission to study the ancient environmental conditions on the red planet. 

Here's to the next 3,000 sols.

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