Posted by: Kash Farooq | March 2, 2012

Space Scenery: Mars

I’m kicking off a new series of posts that lets me collect amazing/beautiful/stunning astronomical images on particular themes into blog posts. Basically – blog posts full of eye candy. With perhaps just a little bit of science occasionally thrown in too.

I’m going to start with Mars. I Tweeted an image of Mars (3976 × 2542) the other day, and this is the reply I received from a friend:

That’s amazing! With all these phenomenal images I sometimes feel like I’ve been there.

It inspired me to start this series of posts and to pick Mars as the first subject (thanks Peter! And thanks for the title of this series!).

Let’s begin.

The high quality images of Mars are arriving from a number of sources. The incredibly successful NASA rovers Opportunity and Spirit have sent back amazing images from the surface. The two rovers lasted far longer than the initial target of a 90-day mission – Opportunity is still going (2958 days and counting). Spirit sadly “died” on 2010 (it sent its last communication March 22 2010). Amazing images from orbit have been captured by spacecraft such as NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor, and ESA’s Mars Express.

Victoria Crater

This is the image that always astounds me into saying “That’s Mars, that is”. The detail is incredible.

Click the image for the full, huge panoramic 12200 × 1920 pixel version. The version below is cropped and does not show the entire crater.

Notice the cliff face is layered – it is clearly sandstone; it shows layers that have formed gradually, probably via wind-blown sand deposits.

Victoria Crater, from Cape Verde (Mars)

This image is a mosaic of many images captured by Opportunity Rover over 21 Martian days. It shows Victoria Crater from Cape Verde. Victoria Crater is roughly 800 metres wide. The cliff face on the left (Cape St. Mary) is 15 metres high. Click for full, huge panoramic 12200 × 1920 pixel version. Image credit: NASA

West Valley

Here is an image captured by Spirit rover. The image below doesn’t do the full vista justice. Click to view the 5628 x 1632 pixel image. The image was produced by James Canvin using freely available data. I highly recommend you visit his website for lots of Martian landscapes.

West Valley ,Mars - 180 degrees panorama

A 180° panorama of West Valley captured by Spirit over three Martian days. Features in this image: Tsiolkovski Ridge (hill on the left), Grissom Hill (behind Tsiolkovski Ridge, on the Horizon, which is about 8 kilometers away), Husband Hill (tallest hill on the horizon, 800 metres away). Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/James Canvin. Created by James Canvin from raw JPL and Exploratorium images. Visit his website Mars Vista website:

Twin Peaks

Another landscape image, but this time not taken by Spirit or Opportunity. This image was taken by Mars Pathfinder in 1998.

The image below is cropped and doesn’t do it justice. Click to view the 3619 x 1568 image – the detail on the rocks scattered around in the foreground is incredible.

The Twin Peaks are small hills (100 metres tall) close to the Mars Pathfinder landing site. The foreground rocks (“hummocks”) are flood debris. Image credit: Dr. Timothy Parker, JPL.

Martian Sunset

A sunset…ON MARS! Spirit rover captured this sunset in May 2005 from Gusev crater. Click to view 2486 x 1914 version.

Spirit rover captured this Martian sunset in May 2005 from Gusev crater. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Texas A&M/Cornell

Water Ice

I like this this image as it shows vast quantities of frozen water ice on Mars. Yes, that’s a big patch of residual water ice in a crater that is about 35 km wide. The image was captured by ESA’s Mars Express. Click to view the 2250 x 1800 version.

Mars Crater Water Ice

ESA’s Mars Express captured this image in February 2005. It shows an unnamed impact crater located on Vastitas Borealis, a broad plain that covers much of Mars’s far northern latitudes. The crater is 35 kilometres wide and has a maximum depth of approximately 2 kilometres beneath the crater rim. The circular patch of bright material located at the centre of the crater is residual water ice. The colours are very close to natural, but the vertical relief is exaggerated three times. Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum).

Valles Marineris

Here is a stunning image of the globe. The huge canyon you can see is named Valles Marineris. It is over 3000 kilometres long and up to 600 kilometres wide, up to 8 kilometres deep. The image is a mosaic created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. Click for the 1552 x 1552 version.

The image is a mosaic created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. The huge surface feature is the 3000 km Valles Marineris canyon. Image credit: Credit: Viking Project, USGS, NASA

A stunning panorama

Here is a very recently released image (July 2012). It is a full 360-degree panoramic image created from 800 images taken by Opportunity rover while it was stationary on the northern slope of Greeley Haven during the 4 month Martian winter. Colours have been exaggerated to show different surface features. You can see tracks made by Opportunity on the left. In the distance you can see an interior wall of Endeavour Crater. Click to see the 5000 x 1728 pixel image, or if you want the huge 23096 x 7981 go straight to the NASA catalog entry.

Greeley Panorama from Opportunity's Fifth Martian Winter

360-degree panoramic image created from 800 images taken by Opportunity rover during it’s fifth Martian winter. Image credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, Cornell, Arizona State University

Related posts

Space Scenery series.


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