It might be nicknamed the red planet, but there’s a lot more to Mars than stones and dust. NASA’s images show plenty of hidden beauty and intrigue. We have been combing the archive to select a selection of the best and most intriguing images NASA has compiled. Chemical alteration Mars may not be much to look at today, but that doesn’t mean it is not filled with fascinating sights which tell tales about its history.
In the past, it is thought that water once ran on Mars, carving channels across the landscape and transporting sediment as it went. This image shows a spectral analysis from orbit that highlights chemical alteration at the surface caused by this water. This image from Jezero Crater delta shows a surface that’s rich in clay and carbonates. The landforms you can see are thought to go as far back over 3.6 billion years and are potentially home to ancient organic molecules along with other potential indications of microbial life. This is why NASA has selected this area as the landing site for the next Rover, that’s set to land on the planet at 2020.
South Pole Spiders Worry not, these aren’t giant alien spiders, but instead, are cracks on the surface of Mars. This was captured from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at the calendar year 2009 and shows a region of the South Pole of the reddish planet where cracks have appeared on the surface. It’s thought that these cracks have appeared as CO2 has escaped by melting ice and dissipated into the atmosphere. We are just glad they aren’t moving. Dust and frost on the surface In the middle of 2018, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured pictures of sand dunes in the northern regions of Mars. These appeared to show light coloured coatings of dust blown across other darker coastal regions.
Close observation shows some spots of dry ice around the edges of the dunes – spots that would rapidly turn into gas throughout the summer season. Blue dunes Another image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows an area of Mars with classic barchan dunes (crescent-shaped sand dunes). These dunes have accumulated within the ground of the Lyot Crater. One area of the dunes, when color improved, seems like a cool turquoise blue showing it to be made of a much finer material than the surrounding area.
Another image of the exact same area recorded in 2017 shows some similarly bizarre and wonderful shapes in the crater. Frosty surface This image from the north pole of Mars shows thick icy layers on the surface of the planet. It’s not all just dust and rocks down there. This image was recorded from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which picked up on the seasonal frost accumulating in this area.