Friday, November 13, 2009

Some astonishing pictures of Mars

The Big Picture at the Boston Globe has published a series of 35 photographs of the surface of Mars. The editor notes:

Since 2006, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been orbiting Mars, currently circling approximately 300 km (187 mi) above the Martian surface. On board the MRO is HiRISE, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera, which has been photographing the planet for several years now at resolutions as fine as mere inches per pixel. Collected here is a group of images from HiRISE over the past few years, in either false color or grayscale, showing intricate details of landscapes both familiar and alien, from the surface of our neighboring planet, Mars. I invite you to take your time looking through these, imagining the settings - very cold, dry and distant, yet real.

Here are a few of the photographs, selected in no particular order, just to give you an idea of the spectacular images available at the site (which are also much larger in size than my copies). Text below each picture is from the Big Picture article.

Avalanches on Mars' North Polar Scarps. Material, likely including fine-grained
ice and dust and possibly including large blocks, has detached from a towering cliff
and cascaded to the gentler slopes below. The cloud is about 180 meters (590 feet)
across and extends about 190 m (625 ft) from the base of the steep cliff.

Victoria Crater at Meridiani Planum. The crater is approximately 800 meters
(about half a mile) in diameter. Layered sedimentary rocks are exposed
the inner wall of the crater, and boulders that have fallen from the crater wall
are visible on the crater floor. NASA's Mars rover Opportunity explored
crater and its walls in 2006.

HiRISE catches a dust devil blowing across the Martian surface east of the Hellas
impact basin and south of Reull Vallis. The diameter of this dust devil is about
200 meters, but at the surface it is probably much smaller. Based on the length
of the shadow in this image, the dust devil is on the order of 500 meters tall.

Very highly recommended viewing. Go read the whole thing.


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