If it’s quiet solitude and beauty you seek, there is no better place than the surface of Mars. Mars has, long ago, earned its moniker as the red planet, but the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) can transform the subtle differences of soils into a rainbow of colors.
For 10 years, HiRISE has recorded gorgeous- and scientifically valuable – images of Mars. Its photos are so detailed that scientists can examine the planet’s features at the scale of just a few feet, including the recent crash site of Europe’s Schiaparelli Mars lander.
We combed through 2,054 of the camera’s latest pictures, released in August, September, and October, to bring you some of the best – and hopefully help you temporarily escape Earth.
A large chasm:
Some dark, rust-colored dunes in Russell Crater:
NASA might land its next nuclear-powered Mars 2020 rover mission here.
In the image below, the black splotch is where the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli Mars lander crashed. The white specks, pointed out with arrows, are pieces of the lander.
‘Spiders’ are eruptions of dust caused by the way the Martian surface warms and cools:
Cerberus Palus crater showing off layered sediments:
Carbon dioxide that turns from solid to gas carves out these strange shapes at Mars’ south pole:
A North Pole dune field nicknamed “Kolhar,” after Frank Herbert’s fictional world.
A possible landing site for the ExoMars 2020 mission, which the European Space Agency is running.
False-coloring this image makes a giant dune and its gullies look blue.
Zebra skin. Just kidding, this is a dune field that’s speckled with oval-shaped mineral deposits:
A recent impact crater on Mars. (We’re pretty sure no one put out a giant cigarette here.)
The creation of ‘fans’ around dunes may help scientists understand seasonal changes on Mars:
Another possible landing site for the Mars 2020 mission:
Terrain near the Martian equator:
Layers in Martian buttes found in a region called West Arabia:
Dunes in a Martian crater. The red bar is an artifact of NASA’s image processing:
A steep slope in Eastern Noctis Labyrinthus:
False colours assigned to certain minerals make Syria Planum an inky blue that’s speckled with gold:
Glacial terrain looks strangely iridescent:
Another gully scientists are having HiRISE monitor:
Beautiful texture in the region called North Sinus Meridiani:
A crater on Arcadia Planitia, a large flat region of Mars:
A picture of Utopia Planitia, a large plain on Mars:
Ceraunius Fossae is a region dominated by volcanic flows and large cracks:
NASA keeps an eye of gullies like this for small landslides – and any water that melts in the warm sun to form darker-colored mud.
A bright speckle of minerals stands out on Galle (not Gale) Crater:
A small but recent impact crater:
Blowing sand eats through the rims of older craters:
Mars in all its two-toned glory:
Seasonal dunes on Mars nicknamed ‘Buzzel’.
Ridges cross the Nepenthes Mensae region, which is often referred to as a river delta for the striking pattern:
The edges of a debris apron, where cliff material eroded away.