Check out the accompanying post, Water on Mars.
Over the last several years the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has taken thousands of satellite images of the red planet’s stark terrain. These images show the surface of Mars in unprecedented detail and have been crucial to gaining a better understanding of the planet’s unique topography and geology. They also offer an impressive look at the natural beauty of another world. The images shown below were all taken by the HiRISE camera between October and December 2010. Image credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Olympus Mons: Olympus Mons is an ancient volcano, and at 17 miles high it’s the tallest known mountain in the solar system. Analysis of lava flows suggests that the volcano may have been active as recently as two million years ago. The above image shows one face of the mountain along with debris deposits surrounding the base, which may be the result of landslides.
Future Landing Site: The area shown above has been proposed as a possible landing site for a future mission to Mars. The terrain in this region is dotted with ‘mud volcanoes’, which form when a mixture of gas and mud from deep underground is forced to the surface. Scientists speculate that this subterranean mud mixture could contain organic compounds that are crucial to possible past or present microbial life on Mars.
Gullies: Gullies carved into a slope at the edge of a crater. Once thought to be formed by flowing liquid water, new evidence suggests that similar gullies are caused by the build-up of carbon dioxide frost during the Martian winter.
Black Pits: Two dramatic, dark pits, 180 and 310 meters across, dot the landscape northwest of the volcano, Ascraeus Mons. Further study of the pits and the surrounding area is needed to determine how they formed.
To view more of the thousands of images taken by HiRISE visit the University of Arizona’s HiRISE image site.