Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Diversity of Mars captured by world's most powerful camera on Nasa probe

Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Located on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a Nasa probe launched in 2005, the HiRise camera has already taken detailed images of the outlines of ancient extraterrestrial seas and rivers – the first unambiguous evidence that shorelines once existed on the Red Planet.

The camera has also witnessed the moment when the warmth of the Martian spring forced puffs of dust through the thin polar caps of dry ice – solid carbon dioxide – to form "starburst" patterns on the surface of the planet.

The Proctor Crater, the ripples are composed of fine sand. The ripples have over time become coverd with dust which may account for the brighter tones

Mars' seasonal cap of carbon dioxide ice which erodeds every spring forming 'mini crators'

The rock formation in this ' Stero Image' suggests it was formed using a process called 'Rhythmic Bedding'. The individual layers suggests the patterns arose from changes in the planet's tilt

Colour enhanced view of Deimos, the smaller of the two moons of Mars taken by the HIRISE camera

The dark branched features on the floor of Antoniadi Crater look like giant ferns, or fern casts. However, these ferns would be several miles in size and are composed of rough rocky materials.

False-colour image of gullies with characteristics of water-carved channels

Detail of one of Mars' moon, Phobos

Avalanches captured by HiRise on the surface of Mars. Material, including fine-grained ice, dust and possibly large blocks, have detached from a towering cliff and cascaded to the gentler slopes below

Image taken from by the HiRise camera looking back at the Earth and Moon from Mars

Now in the latest set of pictures the camera has picked up a huge sand dune inside what is known as the Proctor crater, melting icecaps, and gullies running from the southern highlands.

In addition to operating in the visible light spectrum, the HiRise camera can "see" in near-infrared spectrums enabling it to gather information on the mineral content of the rocks and dust that form the Martian landscape.

Its telescopic lens gives it an unprecedented resolution for a space-probe camera, enabling it to distinguish surface features as little as four feet wide.

Such high-resolution images have enabled the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to build up an impressive library of landscape views showing richly layered materials, gullies and eroded channels, some perhaps formed in very recent times by running water.

Nasa scientists believe the information will be invaluable if they ever have to choose a landing site for a possible manned mission to Mars later this century.


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