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High Definition Images From Mars

April 28th 2010 02:49
The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRise) is a camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The 65 kg, $40 million (USD) instrument consists of a 0.5 meter reflecting telescope, the largest of any deep space mission, which allows it to take pictures with resolutions up to 0.3 m, resolving objects about a meter across.

NASA recently undertook a program called HiWish which allowed regular citizens to suggest areas on Mars to point the HiRise camera. Some of the first images from the initiative have been released and can be seen below.

Mars HiWish program
Palos Crater
This image shows a portion of the floor in Palos Crater on equatorial Mars. The floor appears bumpy with high-standing layered knobs. Most of the terrain on the floor is weathering into meter-size (yard-size) polygonal blocks. The circular structures in the image, many of which are filled with darker wind-blown material, are eroded impact craters.

Mars North Pole
Martian North Pole
The Martian north polar layered deposits are an ice sheet much like the Greenland ice sheet on the Earth. Just as with the ice sheet in Greenland this Martian ice sheet contains many layers that record variations in the Martian climate. Sometimes icy layers can be ablated away during warm climates. Later the ice sheet can be buried by new ice layers and grow in size again. It's likely that many of these cycles have occurred over the ice sheet's history.

Olympus Mons
Side of Olympus Mons
This image covers the northern edge of the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons on Mars. The margin of Olympus Mons is defined by a massive cliff many kilometers (several miles) tall. At this location, it is nearly 7 kilometers (23,000 feet) tall. The cliff exposes the guts of the volcano, revealing interbedded hard and soft layers. The hard layers are lava and the soft layers may be dust (from large dust storms) or volcanic ash.

HD mars pictures
Dunes on Floor of Samara Valles
Samara Valles is one of the longest ancient valley systems on Mars. This system traverses more than 1000 kilometers (621 miles) toward the northwest across the heavily cratered southern highlands eroding into the gentle slopes of Terra Meridiani. The valley terminates in the northern lowlands within the Chryse basin where both Viking Lander 1 and Pathfinder are located.

HiRise HiWish
Mesas in Aureum Chaos
Aureum Chaos is a wide region of plateaus, mesas, and knobs. Most of the rocks in this area appear to have formed originally as laterally continuous layers through volcanic or sedimentary processes. Loss of groundwater or ground ice could have then caused the ground to collapse, forming the current surface features of deep valleys and isolated hills with sloped faces. Subtle layering of these rocks can be observed along the slope face seen here, jutting out from under a mantle of surface sediments. Also present along many slopes are dark-toned, discontinuous lineations. These are tracks left behind by boulders that rolled down the slopes.


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