The European Space Agency’s Mars Express has studied the Red Planet for 20 years. It’s hard to believe it has been that long, but the Express has given us a lot of great data to build on our goals to understand and map the Martian surface. To celebrate the spacecraft’s anniversary, the ESA has released a beautiful global mosaic showing Mars off in more detail than we have ever seen.
The mosaic was made using the data collected by Mars Express. The mosaic was created using the High Resolution Stereo Camera onboard the observatory. Looking at the grainy images we’ve captured before, compared with the detail and colors showcased here, it almost feels like we’re looking at Mars properly for the first time.
Due to the reddish-brown color of Mars, it was named. And while it’s easy to think of the planet as just being one massive, sprawling collection of sand dunes, there are other colors at work here, too. The ESA’s latest Mars Express mosaic gives us a full glimpse into the Red Planet’s proper coloring, as darkly colored paths of grey-black basaltic sands cut through the sandy dunes, creating a scarred-looking world.
It is a stunning mosaic that brings out the color contrast and local colors of Mars in stunning detail. Mars Express can visualize Mars three-dimensionally and in full color thanks to nine imaging channels integrated into the HRSC. Due to the constantly changing opacity and swirling dust of the Martian air, it is hard to get the precise color.
In the past, the Mars Express has gotten around its issue using image processing. This reduces the color variations of different areas of the planet and gives it a grainy look. This time the team has used a model of color derived from observations made at high altitudes to maintain the variations in color while still showing the richness of the view. This beautiful mosaic is the result.
Each of these colors represents a unique material. This really highlights how diverse and vast the Red Planet’s makeup is. Hopefully, images like this give astronomers even more information about the planet, especially if NASA’s plan to send a manned mission to Mars ever becomes a reality, and that information is needed.
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