Rosetta's stunning Mars

By Phil Plait | January 26, 2012 6:52 am

In 2007, the European Space Agency probe passed by Mars on its way to visit a comet. It used Mars for a gravity assist to help it on its way, and got close enough to take some very detailed pictures (it also passed by the asteroid Lutetia and returned amazing shots; see the gallery at the bottom of this post). That data wasn’t initially released by the mission leader (that’s fairly common in some missions), but they were finally made available late last year. My pal Emily Lakdawalla from the Planetary Society Blog grabbed a bunch of them and put together some simply amazing pictures from them, including this jaw-dropper:

Yeah. You really want to click that to Barsoomenate it. Holy dry ice polar caps!

In fact, you should go over to her blog where she gives all the details and has more incredibly cool pictures of the Red Planet as well. I don’t want to spoil her fun by giving it all away here. Go!

Credit: ESA / MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / RSSD / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA / processed by Emily Lakdawalla

Related posts:

Rosetta’s cometary goal now in sight
Lutetia may have witnessed the birth of the Earth
Curiosity on its way to Mars!


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (12)

  1. uudale
  2. Chris

    That was really fascinating. Amazing that we’re living at a time when a spacecraft just casually passes by Mars, takes some photos and sneaks a peak at Jupiter while it’s there.

  3. Bobby LaVesh

    Fascinating photo. Certainly looks an interesting place; Mars could do with a few oceans though before I’d want to visit.

  4. Ryan

    Was just thinking of Mars this morning, maybe someone can explain something I’ve always wondered:

    Lots of people talk of Terraforming Mars some day, but isn’t there a big problem with her core being solid rock? Isn’t that the reason she lost her atmosphere in the first place, lacking a magnetic shield strong enough to counteract solar radiation?

    Say we were able to melt her ice caps and liquid water, while pumping CO2, Methane and oxygen into her atmosphere. Wouldn’t it only be temporary (although long in human terms) change?

  5. Mejilan

    I think I saw some evidence of carnage left behind by John Carter…
    But I can’t be sure. Perhaps on another fly-by…

  6. Tara Li

    @5 Mejilan:

    Perhaps it was the Little Green Spaceship located at about the 4:30 position just above the atmosphere?

  7. KC

    @Ryan –the core is iron & nickle just like the Earth’s. But the reason Mars lost its atmosphere is more that its too small and doesn’t have enough gravity to hold onto a substantial atmosphere. With no substantial magnetic field either, that does make it worse as the solar wind can strip away stuff in the upper atmosphere. So basically it is exacerbating an already bad situation.

    So if you did terraform Mars, you’d have to find a way to either replenish the atmosphere or create an artificial global magnetosphere – no mean feat!

  8. Ganzy

    Phil, apologies for being off topic here:

    Youtube: Newt Gingrich promises US moon colony by 2020.

    Is this guy being genuine here? His past record on science issues don’t look too promising.

    Is it just a case of say anything to get into power and to hell with promises made… Any thoughts?

  9. Andrew

    That last image of Lutetia, with a tiny Saturn in the background, is extraordinary. Just like the image through a small telescope. Hard to believe it is just hanging there in the sky with its rings!

  10. Also of note – yesterday was the eighth anniversary of the Opportunity rover landing on Mars.

  11. Marvellous images there. Cheers! :-)

    @1. uudale : “Speaking of Mars, has anyone seen this?”

    I hadn’t yet – thanks for that! :-)

    @8. Ganzy : “Youtube: Newt Gingrich promises US moon colony by 2020.” .. Any thoughts?

    Seconding that myself. I saw something – just a headline really – on the news last night on that & was really hoping to see the Bad Astronomer’s take on that here too.

    @10. The Math Skeptic : Indeed. That was mentioned on the recent Mosaic of Home thread the other day too by (#19.) Eugene & I’ve linked my responding comment to my name here which, in turn, contains further links to the NASA press release on that anniversary and a musical tribute to the MERs plus their homepage for y’all. :-)

  12. Digital Atheist


    I’m not sure about John Carter but it think I did see Tars Tarkas and the Tharks raiding a city.


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