Curiosity has snapped another cheeky selfie – this time it's over a region known as the “Buckskin” rock target. This is significant because it is the seventh location where Curiosity has collected a surface sample after drilling into it. The Mars rover marked this achievement with a “low-angle” selfie.
You can spot the areas where Curiosity drilled into the Martian soil in the photograph. They are signaled with two patches of white substances, making bright spots on the surface of the Red Planet.
The two white spots represent two sections in the rover's drilling process. After the rover drills up a sample, it runs the sample through a sieve. The material that filters nicely through the sieve goes into the robot's laboratory instruments for analysis. Any material too big to fit through the sieve gets unceremoniously dumped on the surface. This deposited material is the spot closest to the rover.
The spot further away from the rover is simply a little trail of material left over from the drilling process. The small, triangle-shaped patch of deposit has a tiny black dot at one of its points: this is the hole 1.6 centimeters (0.63 inches) wide that Curiosity drilled.
The impressive panoramic selfie was created from an impressive 92 different components from different images. Unfortunately, it cuts off the rover's robotic arm, but you can still see the shadow.
The Curiosity team did a dress rehearsal of this selfie on Earth before performing the stunt up on Mars. A test rover on Earth went through the motions to produce this panorama. It might seem excessive, but the Curiosity team can take no risks. Damage to the rover on Earth isn't nearly as problematic as damaging Curiosity, at least 54.6 million kilometers (33.9 million miles) away from any sort of assistance.
Test selfie taken on Earth. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.