NASA releases breathtaking new images of Mars

NASA has released brand new pictures of Mars, and they’re probably the most stunning yet. The images, of which there are around 1000 altogether, come from the search for water on the red planet – which actually began in 2005. So what makes them so special? The images taken this month owe their beauty to a specific set of rare circumstances.

Every month, scientists receive images of the planet, but every 26 months Mars and the Sun are on opposite sides of Earth. That means that larger data packets can be sent – and that means more images can be sent, and at higher resolutions, too. To make the photos even better, the photos show the Sun shining on the equator of the planet, making the lighting perfect.

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What took the pictures?  

The instrument taking the photos is known as HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment). It’s able to detect the visible spectrum just like human eyes – but combines it with the near-infrared spectrum to construct a detailed view of the planet’s surface, and the mineral groups it contains.

HiRISE is so far proving very valuable in the search for water on Mars, with NASA saying in a statement “These new, high-resolution images are providing unprecedented views of layered materials, gullies, channels, and other science targets, in addition to characterizing possible future landing sites”. I’ve included my favourite pictures here, and you can view the rest of the images on the HiRISE image catalogue.

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