The image was taken by the MRO spacecraft and shows a curious region on Mars which looks like a massive dragon. What we are actually seeing here is the Melas Chasma region of Mars, once thought to have been the place of a massive Martian lake.
NASA has revealed a stunning image of the Martian surface snapped by its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The spacecraft photographed a region on Mars that looks like a carved dragon on the red planet’s surface using its HiRISE camera.
The wonders of Mars through the eyes of MRO
Earth’s neighboring planet, Mars, continues to ignite our imagination thanks to a new batch of images from spacecraft orbiting Mars. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter used its HiRISE camera (University of Arizona) to take new pictures of the Martian surface, revealing striking new surface features on Mars. The MRO has been orbiting Mars and collecting unprecedented information about the planet since 2006. In addition to the science it does, the MRO has provided some of the most amazing images we’ve ever seen from Mars.
On Twitter, MRO’s HiRISE account wrote: “We rotated this image of light-toned blocky material in southwestern Melas Chasma because, from this perspective, it resembles a fabled Chinese dragon.” The image of the curious surface feature was snapped by the spacecraft orbiting the red planet at 160 miles above Mars. Although the curious feature on the surface is quite exciting and resembles the shape of a “dragon,” it wasn’t the first time NASA spotted it. NASA first spotted the curious Martian dragon in 2007, but the dragon isn’t immediately obvious due to the rotation and angle at which the image was taken.
A Dragon (Canyon) on Mars
HiPOD 11 Apr 2020: Year of the Dragon
We rotated this image of light-toned blocky material in southwestern Melas Chasma because from this perspective, it resembles a fabled Chinese dragon.
— HiRISE: Beautiful Mars (NASA) (@HiRISE) April 11, 2020
Martian dragon in Melas Chasma
The Martian dragon image is Mars’ Melas Chasma canyon, which appears in the reddish color in the image. According to planetologists, this oddly-shaped Martian canyon is probably cutting through an ancient lake bed on Mars.
Scientists from the University of Arizona in charge of the HiRISE instrument revealed, “Along the floor of Melas Chasma is an unusual blocky deposit composed of light-toned blocks in a darker matrix. The high-resolution HiRISE image reveals layers only a few meters thick in some light-toned blocks. The blocks vary in size, but most fall between 100 to 500 meters in diameter.”
The “dragons” valleys
“Small valleys can be seen along the wall rock to the south. The wall rock is a mixture of two geologic units that differ mainly in reflectance. The light-toned unit appears thinner and only exposed in localized spots.”
The Martian canyon cuts through layered deposits of what scientists believed to be sediments from an ancient lake that resulted from the runoff of the valley networks to the west. The region is thought to have been covered in abundant water, evidenced by the discovery of hydrated sulfates by the MRO. Scientific analysis suggests that the lake at Melas Chasma had fluctuating levels throughout the Martian year.
This is not the first time NASA has spied unusual shapes on the Martian surface. Back in 2018, the spacecraft spotted what seemed to be an “Alien Pac-Man” on the surface of Mars. Furthermore, the spacecraft spotted a Mars dune that looked eerily like the “Star Trek Starfleet insignia.”
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