Mars as you have never seen before.
Celebrating two decades since its launch, ESA’s Mars Express offers a vibrant new mosaic of Mars, showcasing the planet’s composition and color in unparalleled detail. The mosaic, a work of art in its own right, was crafted using data gathered by the spacecraft’s High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC).
Mars Express Mosaic
HRSC typically photographs Mars from roughly 300 km above, capturing swathes about 50 km wide. Yet, for this mosaic, a different method was employed. HRSC collected 90 images from altitudes between 4,000 to 10,000 km to get a broader planet view, capturing expanses of around 2,500 km wide. The result? A complete global panorama.
Colorful Snapshot: More Than Just Beauty
Large-scale images offer breathtaking perspectives of the Martian surface even without atmospheric phenomena. This fresh outlook accentuates variations across Mars’ surface by boosting local color and contrast. Despite the fact that the Martian atmosphere’s ever-shifting opacity hindering accurate color capture from orbit, this mosaic presents a richer, more varied color view of Mars.
A Colorful Journey Across Martian Landscapes
Usually, color variations are suppressed during image processing, but this mosaic bucks the trend. Each image was color-referenced to a model derived from high-altitude observations, preserving color differences and revealing an unprecedented color view of Mars.
Mars in True Colors: A Stunning Mosaic
Beyond its visual appeal, the mosaic also unveils valuable information about Mars’ composition, displaying an unprecedented variety and detail of colors across its surface. Mars is well-known for its reddish hue, resulting from high levels of oxidized iron. Yet, large sections of the planet appear dark and blue-toned, signifying grey-black basaltic sands of volcanic origin.
Deciphering Mars: From Weathered Minerals to Liquid Water Traces
Water-weathered material tends to appear lighter. Mars’ most common water-weathered minerals, clay, and sulfate, show up distinctly bright on color composites. Their presence suggests liquid water existed on Mars long enough to alter rock over time, forming significant clay deposits.
Exploring Valles Marineris: A History of Acidic Conditions
Sulfate minerals, signifying more acidic conditions, are visible within the Valles Marineris canyon system. Although covered by a thin layer of dark sand, impressive color variations hint at their presence.
Mars Express: Two Decades of Martian Exploration
For 20 years, Mars Express has orbited the Red Planet, imaging its surface, identifying its atmospheric composition, probing beneath its crust, and studying the martian environment. HRSC has revealed a myriad of Mars’ diverse surface features, from wind-carved ridges to massive volcanic sinkholes. As the mission extends to at least the end of 2026, we eagerly anticipate more stunning and enlightening glimpses of Mars.