Martian mesa… in 3D!

By Phil Plait | July 28, 2009 7:30 am

I love Mars pictures taken using the phenomenal HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and I love 3D images, so I — and therefore you — get a twofer today: a totally cool 3D view of a mesa on Mars, looking straight down on it from orbit!

[Click to embiggen.]

Obviously, you need red/blue glasses to make this work. If you don’t have any, I suggest you find some (lots of places sell them online), and then search this blog for the word "anaglyph", which will make you very happy.

How cool is this? You can see that the top of the mesa is substantially above the rest of the surface, and the shallow depressions in the top are obvious… and, of course, provide us with a whimsical example of pareidolia. The sand dunes rippling across even look a little bit like eyelashes.

Man, I love stuff like this.

You can find details about the picture on the HiRISE site as well as wider field of view pictures that put it into context. HiRISE has an incredible gallery of 3D anaglyphs that’ll keep you occupied for quite some time, too.

Comments (50)

  1. Frowning smiley? Or maybe Aang, the last airbender?

  2. Darth Curt

    Gorbachev? (It’s the birthmark on the forehead that made me see him there)

  3. Perhaps a stone-age bowling ball?

  4. It’s not Caturday! This is conclusive proof that cats are aliens from Mars, and are also deserving our worship.

  5. Is that bright spot in the center the place where. Dr. Manhattan destroyed his glass chariot?

    Just sayin…

  6. NewEnglandBob

    Its a Japanese anime, on Mars – so cool!

  7. Porky Pine

    The colors are reversed. With my glasses, it looked like a big indent. I had to flip my glasses backwards to see it correctly.

  8. FenrirKar

    Kind of looks like a >:o Funny…perhaps in the future, it won’t be full-blown facial structure’s we find on planets due to pareidolia, but just simple little emotes/smilies.

  9. Mapnut

    Marvin the Martian of course, although his helmet crest is a little small. Not actually Marvin, but a colossal monument to him built by his slavish followers. Yes, he has a mouth; you just couldn’t see it when he was on the Moon because the sunlight was too bright.

  10. I wish someone could come up with a 3D effect that doesn’t require wearing those bizarre glasses. Even wearing them in a darkened theatre where nobody can see me is a pain.

  11. Grizzly

    I want to see the broader context and assess whether there are any hyper-dimensional physical ramifications…

    That said, it looks more like Mr. Bill than anything else. Oh Noooo!

  12. jamerz3294

    finally, proof in 3D that Martian really do make Crop Circles and the Earth is Doomed in 2012 *giggle*

  13. T.E.L.

    Awwww!: it’s a cute little cartoon-character-Martian-mesa!

  14. PatiMc

    Agree with the Mr. Bill idea, but have to say that my first thought was Jack Skellington from Nightmare Before Christmas.

  15. Sarah

    Definitely Mr. Bill.

    #5, no ( having just seen the movie myself ) I think that spot should be here:
    http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap990315.html

  16. Zucchi

    I’m sure it’s great. I don’t have stereoscopic vision, so all that 3-D crap doesn’t work for me.

  17. BC

    They seriously didn’t use “embiggen” as a real word, did they? Seriously? Seriously. C’mon now!

  18. Jon F

    Looks like a kodama, like from “Princess Mononoke.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodama_(spirit)

  19. I'd rather be fishin'

    Even without 3-D glasses, the photo is great. Wow, I wonder what nutbar ‘theory’ the aliens-are-among-us types are going to invent now.

  20. Mark Hansen

    Romeo, there is an alternative method for displaying 3D images but it takes twice as much screen room. Stereoscopic pairs.
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaglyph_image has a perfect example of a stereoscopic pair that has been redone as an anaglyph. Personally, I prefer the stereoscopic pairs, especially for colour images.

  21. Yojimbo

    Looks a lot like Jose…

  22. HP

    Is the vertical scale exaggerated? Because with my 3D glasses, parts of that image look impossible. (The “eyelash” dunes, for example, appear to be about 1o times taller than they are wide.) Or is it because the relatively lower gravity of Mars makes tall, skinny dunes and precipitous overhangs inevitable?

  23. T.E.L.

    HP,

    The depth may be exaggerated. I just perused the HIRISE 3-D gallery, and I’ve noticed a lot of craters which seem to be extremely deep with respect to their diameters.

  24. IBY

    eww… The face looks like it has a humongous, ugly wart on its forehead. ^_^

  25. Gonzo

    @#2 (Darth)

    You stoled my comment!!! :-)

  26. Michael Kingsford Gray

    I love theses anayglyphs, and this one is especially startling!

    One thing that I do miss though, is a sense of scale.
    How big would say a school bus be on the piccy?

  27. Gary Ansorge

    Ah, pareidolia, whether with or w/o the glasses, I have to say that, for a Martian child, that is about the ugliest kid ever,,,

    OK. I’m old. I can be honest if I want,,,

    GAry 7

  28. Gary Ansorge

    Onion should do an article on “Ugliest child ever found on MArs. Pictures prove Neanderthal got there first.”

    GAry 7

  29. Doc Atomic

    Why do these images always have to be presented in anaglyphic form, so as to require the use of bicoloured glasses in order to view them only in monochrome? Why can’t we view the actual left-eye and right-eye images side by side, in full colour? Uncrossing one’s eyes to look ‘through’ such a stereo pair is very easy, requires no glasses at all for viewing, and produces a far more realistic three-dimensional effect. So – where’s the pairs? Don’t people have dual-head monitor setups these days? Is this not the dawn of the third millennium? Anaglyphs are obsolete technology, and are entirely unsatisfactory.

  30. Zucchi

    Note: “Embiggen” is from “The Simpsons” (and I think also “Futurama”); it’s used as a sort of in-joke.

  31. Atropos

    Looks a bit like the SkullCandy logo to me.

  32. Doc Atomic

    Why do these images always have to be presented in anaglyphic form, so as to require the use of bicoloured glasses in order to view them only in monochrome? Why can’t we view the actual left-eye and right-eye images side by side, in full colour? Uncrossing one’s eyes to look ‘through’ such a stereo pair is very easy, requires no glasses at all for viewing, and produces a far more realistic three-dimensional effect. So – where’s the pairs? Don’t people have dual-head monitor setups these days? Is this not the dawn of the third millennium? Anaglyphs are an obsolete technology, and are entirely unsatisfactory.

  33. bigjohn756

    It looks like a stack of pancakes with an evil kitty face carved into the top.

  34. T.E.L.

    Doc Atomic,

    Way back in the early ’70s NASA published a series of booklets on the Apollo missions. Among other things, the books featured the occasional stereo-pair from lunar orbit or down on the surface. The pairs were fused by crossing the eyes, and the viewer was assisted by a “fusion spot” over each of the two pics. When the two spots were perfectly overlapped, the stereo pair were properly matched and the 3-D effect was perfect.

    Of course, the pics themselves were still in black & white; but the books were only printed in B&W.

    But, I think the reason for the red-blue pics is that Mars researchers may spend rather lengthy spells poring over the images. Anaglyph allows them to avoid a pow’rful case of eyestrain.

  35. Doc Atomic

    T.E.L.,

    “But, I think the reason for the red-blue pics is that Mars researchers may spend rather lengthy spells poring over the images. Anaglyph allows them to avoid a pow’rful case of eyestrain.”

    Other way around, I believe – the researchers I observed used stereo pairs from our Cartography department in the geological research establishment I once worked at, and they all had nice big light table work surfaces and Bausch & Lomb magnifying viewers to view them with. Anaglyphs, in comparison, produce far more strain because of their inherent limitation – the technology being capable of reproducing only a narrow spread of apparent monochromatic tones ranging from muddy grey to tinted fog, and with the whole constantly tinting back and forth between the two colours like a chameleon caught in a disco. No – in comparison, the stereo-pairs-and-viewer option is vastly superior in quality and effect.

  36. Doc Atomic

    To return to the original point, however, even uncrossing one’s eyes and de-focusing enough to allow one to observe _hi-res full-colour_ stereo pairs directly on a widescreen monitor is *still* far superior in effect to the anaglyphs, and simply involves editing copies of the original full-res files in order to align a stereo pair merge so that the resultant output would fit perfectly within the now-standard 16:9 or 16:10 display aspect ratios.

  37. Doc Atomic

    Who’s with me on this? And *higher-resolution* display panels that are also affordable as well, darn it! Let’s get some real _quality_ viewing time out of the huge public bucks that are spent on it! It won’t happen until people start assisting, by raising a large enough ruckus for the manufacturers to begin to take notice of – so, here’s my contribution. Thank you, and good evening.

  38. T.E.L.

    Well Doc, I don’t know what to tell you then. Sounds like you’ve been in a far better position to know why they do it this way than anyone else here. So what’s your point in asking?

  39. Doc Atomic

    My point is that the paying public should be able to view the original hi-res files and preferably in full natural colour, instead of mere anaglyphic excuses – and, to be able to afford display panels of suitably-higher resolution as well. I don’t think either suggestion should be received as being unreasonable or impossible, and I’m wondering if any others may feel that there may be some merit to them instead. Is that not… human?

  40. I see a smiley face – this is clear proof of a martian civilization. Richard Hoaglund has been proven right!

  41. T.E.L.

    Doc, I’m not sure I understand what you’re talking about. According to the HiRISE website, anyone is welcome to download the raw image data and process it using free software. I think that constitutes allowing the public (even the non-paying variety, since it’s open to non-U.S. citizens) to view the pics as-desired.

    And if you don’t want to bother with that much work, there’s a link to pages full of the color stereo pairs that you can just download and do with as you please.

  42. Sundance

    Incidentally you can also do full-colour 3D using two _projectors_ and polarising screens (rather than red and green). That’s been used in theatres years ago, but teh craze for #D movies as basically waned.

    And I see a one-eared koala…

  43. HAHAHA! It looks like Aang!

  44. How’d he get on Mars? THEY MUST WORSHIP HIM!!!

  45. Gail

    Chuckie, CHUCKIE?????? Is that YOU????

  46. I was trying to learn how to create anaglyphs when I stumbled upon this page and thought this pic was great, but I only had the green/magenta glasses that you get with movies like Coraline and My Bloody Valentine 3d (can get them at Blockbuster, etc.) so I decided to give it a whirl and make one for green/magenta glasses. So if you have those type of glasses you can see how it looks. I uploaded it to my website. I did more of the original images and it is really cool to be able to move around more of the original images to view other cool land features. Please note that I left the image at high res so the image is 4.1MB. Once downloaded make sure to save it locally and zoom to 100% for best viewing.

    http://www.stephen-johnson.com/mars_green_magenta_3d.jpg

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