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Best Mars Images From Orbiter’s First 5 Years

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posted on Mar, 11 2011 @ 09:37 AM
I know most if not all of these pictures have been posted here at one time or another, however Thursday March 10, 2011 marked the 5th year of the orbiter and this article takes a look back. They gathered some of the best photos and put them in one place for us to enjoy.

I found them breathtaking, and figured some here would enjoy a look back as well.

NASA's prolific Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter turns five Earth years old Thursday.

Since settling into orbit around the Red Planet on March 10, 2006, MRO has transmitted more data to Earth -- 131 trillion bits and more than 70,000 images so far -- than all other interplanetary missions combined.

After the orbiter finished all its initial science objectives in the first two years, NASA extended its lifetime twice. The extra time let MRO watch Mars change over two-and-a-half Martian years, giving a new picture of a shifting, dynamic planet.

"Each Mars year is unique, and additional coverage gives us a better chance to understand the nature of changes in the atmosphere and on the surface," said Rich Zurek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in a press release. "We have already learned that Mars is a more dynamic and diverse planet than what we knew five years ago. We continue to see new things."

MRO carries six science instruments, including radar that peels back the layers of the Martian surface, a spectrometer that has mapped the mineral content of three-quarters of the planet, and a weather camera that monitors clouds and dust storms.

But the show stopper is the HiRise camera (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), which can resolve features the size of a beach ball from 180 miles away.

To date, HiRise has snapped more than 18,500 close ups of Mars' canyons, craters and dunes. In honor of MRO's fifth birthday, here are some of our favorites.

Just a little back story on how the photos came to be and the way scientists use the orbiter. The following pictures are just a few out of the 70,000 that were taken.

Dust-Devil Tattoo

These twisty trails were traced by dust devils, spinning columns of rising air that pick up loose red dust grains and reveal darker, heavier sand beneath. Dust devils have been blamed for unexpectedly cleaning off the Mars rovers' solar panels. This image was taken Aug. 24, 2009.

This oddly reminds me of cinnamon swirls.
I would like to see real time live video feed of something like this. It looks like planned artwork almost.

Lovely Layers

This image, captured Nov. 8, 2006, shows layers of lighter and darker material, probably laid down over millions of years as Mars' climate slowly and cyclically changed.

The layers wouldn't really look yellow and blue if you were standing on Mars. HiRise takes images in three colors: blue-green, red and the invisible near infrared. The color images are then stacked on top of one another and displayed in visible red, blue and green to highlight different geological features.

A beautiful image indeed. I always am in awe of seeing things that have been here for eons. Wether it be here on our planet or somewhere else. I always think about how many generations saw it before I did. It makes one feel a bit smaller in the universe.

Southern Swiss Cheese

Mars' south pole is a weird place. Permanent ice caps are carved into smooth, swirling shapes that planetary scientists call "Swiss cheese terrain." The high-standing areas are carbon dioxide ice up to 30 feet thick. The depressions are thought to be gouged out by the removal of this carbon dioxide ice by sublimation -- changing directly from solid to gas.

HiRise has been monitoring the south polar caps closely for changes. The image above was captured Aug. 28, 2007.

This is my favorite I think. It reminds me of snowflakes. These ice caps don't melt obviously. The gouges are caused by sublimation and make it look like Swiss cheese. I still say, snowflakes...

Starburst Spider

Every Martian spring, the seasonal cap of frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) shifts directly from solid to gas without bothering to melt first. This sublimation erodes beautiful patterns in the soil, like the dendritic spider patterns in this image captured Feb. 4, 2009.

The universe is amazing. Beauty is found in some of the strangest places if we just take the time to notice it.

Avalanche Clouds

Last winter, HiRise caught an avalanche in action. This image, taken Jan. 27, 2010, shows at least three clouds of dust kicked up as a clump of carbon dioxide ice fell 2,000 feet from the cliff face. The ice was probably dislodged by warming temperatures and sunlight, as the Martian winter turned to spring.

This was the second avalanche HiRise watched. The first, on Feb. 19, 2008 (below), caught material skidding down a sleep slope to make clouds almost 600 feet wide.

Somehow I find it odd that other planets have avalanches like we do. I am not sure why I found it unexpected though. (note to self... do not assume)
I guess I never really gave it much thought until I saw this photo.

Veins Of Water

Veiny gullies trace the walls of a large pit in Mars' southern hemisphere in this image, captured Aug. 5, 2007. The gullies may have been carved by liquid water millions of years ago, when Mars was warmer and wetter.

That would have been something to see for sure. Imagine looking at rivers running over the face of Mars! Raging rapids or lazy rivers, I would have liked to see it.

Falling Phoenix

MRO was in just the right spot May 25, 2008, to catch the Mars Phoenix Lander parachuting to the surface. MRO was 472 miles away and zipping by at about 2 miles per second when it shot this photo.

Through a trick of perspective, Phoenix looks like it's about to fall into the 6-mile-wide Heimdall crater. It's actually about 12 miles away from the crater's edge.

That's a big crater! I suppose no planet is spared from the bumps and bruises of flying debris. Snapping this photo while going an unreal 2 miles per second is amazing in itself IMO. I find it interesting that we caught ourselves on camera in a sense. It made for a nifty photo op at any rate.

You can see a few mofe pics here...

Sorry for the lengthy post. I figured the images were worth it.
I can't wait to see what the future brings as food for our eyes.
edit on 3/11/2011 by Kangaruex4Ewe because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 11 2011 @ 10:52 AM
These pictures are great. Thanks for posting.

I always wondered why there weren't more like this as opposed to the grainy, black and white that are so common.

posted on Mar, 11 2011 @ 10:55 AM
Awesome! S+F. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I am fully confident in the existence of some form of life on Mars.

posted on Mar, 11 2011 @ 01:57 PM
It's fascinating to see alien planets untouched by us and our soda cans and McDonald's wrappers everywhere.
The devastation is apparent too from what must have occurred after Sol 5 was destroyed.

posted on Mar, 11 2011 @ 02:29 PM
reply to post by Kangaruex4Ewe

Great pics!
Check this one out as well,in the mojave crater!!dust not ice though on this one.

edit on 11/3/2011 by Silcone Synapse because: spelling and location

posted on Mar, 11 2011 @ 02:30 PM
reply to post by JibbyJedi

You took the words right out of my mouth. It actually crossed my mind as to how long it would take us humans to "litter" it up.

That's a sad thing...

posted on Mar, 11 2011 @ 02:43 PM
reply to post by Silcone Synapse

Great photo! Thanks for sharing it.

There is some interesting terrain on Mars for sure.

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