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4th of July on the Red planet

NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope Institute have released new images of Mars to commemorate the landing of Mars Pathfinder on July 4, 1997

Based on a STScI press release

HST images of MarsJuly 1, 1999: In late April and early May of 1999, Mars was brighter and nearer to Earth than at any time since 1990. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope took advantage of the close encounter to capture some of the sharpest views yet of the Red Planet. NASA is releasing these images to commemorate the July 4th anniversary of the Mars Pathfinder landing, one of the space agency's most celebrated missions.

Right: An animation of Mars showing four hemispheric views at 90 degree intervals as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope between April 27 and May 6, 1999.

The telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 snapped these images between April 27 and May 6, when Mars was 54 million miles from Earth. From this distance the telescope could see Martian features as small as 12 miles wide. The telescope obtained four images, which, together, show the entire planet. Each view depicts the planet as it completes one quarter of its daily rotation.

artist's depiction of the Mars rover

Visit the Mars Pathfinder Web Site

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These Hubble telescope snapshots show that Mars is a dynamic and ever-changing planet. Some regions that were dark 20 years ago, when Viking first mapped Mars, are now bright red; some areas that were bright red are now dark. Winds move sand and dust from region to region, often in spectacular dust storms. Over long timescales, many of the larger bright and dark markings remain stable, but smaller details come and go as they are covered and then uncovered by sand and dust.

High resolution pictures

Hubble images of Mars

Above: Click on any of the four pictures above for a striking high resolution view of that hemisphere as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Each image is (approximately) a 200KB jpg image with 200dpi resolution.

The four hemispheric views of Mars obtained by the HST are striking for their clarity and detail. In the gallery above, hemisphere A is centered near the location of the Pathfinder landing site. Dark sand dunes that surround the polar cap merge into a large, dark region called Acidalia. This area, as shown by images from the Hubble telescope and other spacecraft, is composed of dark, sand-sized grains of pulverized volcanic rock. Below and to the left of Acidalia are the massive Martian canyon systems of Valles Marineris, some of which form long linear markings that were once thought by some to be canals. Early morning clouds can be seen along the left limb of the planet, and a large cyclonic storm composed of water ice is churning near the polar cap.

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Hemisphere B features a region of the planet known as Tharsis, home of the largest volcanoes in the solar system. The bright, ring-like feature just to the left of center is the volcano Olympus Mons, which is more than 340 miles across and 17 miles high.

Hemisphere C is centered near another volcanic region known as Elysium. This area shows many small, dark markings that have been observed by the Hubble telescope and other spacecraft to change as a result of the movement of sand and dust across the Martian surface. In the upper left of this image, at high northern latitudes, a large chevron-shaped area of water ice clouds mark a storm front. Along the right limb, a large cloud system has formed around the Olympus Mons volcano.

Hemisphere D features a dark area known as Syrtis Major, first seen telescopically by the astronomer Christiaan Huygens in the 17th century. Many small, dark, circular impact craters can be seen in this region, attesting to the Hubble telescope's ability to reveal fine detail on the planet's surface. To the south of Syrtis is a large circular feature called Hellas. Viking and more recently Mars Global Surveyor have revealed that Hellas is a large and deep impact crater.

See for yourself

If you would like to see Mars for yourself on the 4th of July, it's easy! After sunset (or around 9:30 p.m. local time) the Red Planet can be seen approximately 30 degrees above the southwestern horizon from mid-latitude sites in the Northern hemisphere. The "Red Planet" will appear just over 5 degrees to the left of the bright bluish star Spica. Mars, shining brightly at magnitude -0.4, has a distinctive pumpkin color. You won't discern as much detail as the HST, but it's still a satisfying sight.

Photo credits: Steve Lee (University of Colorado), Jim Bell (Cornell University), Mike Wolff (Space Science Institute), and NASA

Other researchers involved in the collection and analysis of these Hubble telescope data are R. Todd Clancy (Space Science Institute), Philip James (University of Toledo), and Michael Ravine (Malin Space Science Systems, Inc.).

Web LinksRelated Stories:

The Red Planet in 3D -- New data from Mars Global Surveyor reveal the topography of Mars better than many continental regions on Earth. May 27, 1999 NASA NASA Science News

Search for life on Mars will start in Siberia -- Russian and NASA scientists will look for life forms in the inhospitable realm of Siberian permafrost. May 27, 1999 NASA Science News

Stormy weather on Mars -- During the recent close approach of Mars to Earth, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope spotted a gigantic storm swirling near the Red Planet's north pole. May 19, 1999 NASA NASA Science News

Mars unveils a magnetic personality -- Plate tectonics on the Red Planet might have important consequences for ancient Martian life. Apr 30, 1999 NASA Science News

Plate tectonics on Mars? -- Magnetic stripes on the surface of Mars are similar to fields in the sea floors of Earth. Apr 29, 1999 NASA Science News

A close encounter with the Red Planet -- Mars makes its closest approach to Earth in 1999. Apr 23, 1999 NASA Science News

A new face on Mars has scientists smiling -- MGS beams back pictures of the "Happy Face Crater". Mar. 12, 1999 NASA Space Science News

Related Web Links:

Mars weather, climate, and life FAQ -- from NASA/Ames

What would happen to a dead body on Mars? -- NASA/Ames Quest Ask-a-Scientist query

Mars Surveyor 2001 -- home page at JPL

Mars Global Surveyor -- home page at JPL

NASA Astrobiology -- an excellent website from NASA/Ames


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For more information, please contact:
Dr. John M. Horack , Director of Science Communications
Source: STScI press release
Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips
Curator: Bryan Walls
NASA Official: John M. Horack