Mounted to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as it floats high above the red planet is the HiRISE telescope, an imaging device capable of taking incredibly high-resolution photos of the martian landscape. It's sent back nearly 30,000 photos during its time above the planet, which have been used by NASA to find clear landing spots for rovers, and by researchers to learn more about the features of Mars' surface.
The stunning views captured by HiRISE have inspired a book from the publisher Aperture, called This is Mars, which includes 150 of its finest looks at the planet. The entire collection is in black and white, however, as that's how HiRISE's images naturally turn out.
But by combining different color filters on the telescope, NASA is able to produce colored versions of most images too. They're known as "false color" images, since they won't perfectly match up with what the human eye would see. False color images are still useful, however, in helping researchers distinguish between different elements of Mars' landscape. They're also downright gorgeous to look through. Below, we've collected our own series of some of the most incredible sights taken by HiRISE throughout 2013.
- Exposed layers of sediment at Nili Fossae, a group of large troughs
- Martian plains believed to be rich in chloride
- Landslide at the Ganges Chasma
- Polygonal dunes suggest extreme dryness, like in mud flats
- Landslides at Valles Marineris
- Martian "fans," like the splotches above, are often created by geysers
- Dunes at Russell Crater
- The landscape at Nili Patera, a martian volcano
- Bedrock at Meridiani Planum, a plain near Mars' equator
- Polar dunes named Hazar with Abundant Sand
- A trough in the Cerberus region of Mars
- Layers of mineral deposits coating the Central Candor Chasma
All images credit of NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.