Close-ups of Mars' surface (photos)

Searching for evidence of water, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera on NASA's Mars orbiter offers new, detailed views of the Martian landscape.

CNET Reviews staff
1 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Exposed ice in a fresh crater

The HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has photographed a multitude of locations on Mars' surface in stunning detail with a telescopic lens.
Part of a mission to search for evidence of water and ice present in the planet's geologic history, the visible-light camera is also capable of capturing images in near-infrared wavelengths, allowing scientists observe mineral groups, layered materials, gullies, and channels from an altitude of just a few hundred miles.
Here, a bright blue material in this false-color image of a fresh crater about 20 feet in diameter in a mid-latitude area of northern Mars shows what scientists believe is subsurface ice exposed by the impact that excavated the crater.
Earlier this month, NASA released hundreds of new images from the mission.
The information in all of the 22 captions in this slideshow comes directly from NASA.
2 of 22 NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/JHU-APL/MSSS/FU-Berlin

Hydrated minerals at Stokes Crater

In the area known as the northern lowlands, which cover nearly half of the planet, this image of the Stokes Crater shows hydrated minerals detected from orbit.
Evidence of three types of hydrated minerals, including phyllosilicates, and nearby exposures of two volcanic minerals pyroxene and olivine unaltered by water have been interpreted as evidence that nearly 4 billion years ago Mars was home to the widespread wet conditions necessary to form the phyllosilicates and was potentially capable of producing life.
3 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University/University of Hawaii

Bright exposures of chloride salt on southern Mars

Chloride salt minerals in the southern highlands of Mars, shown in bright blue in this false-color image from the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) indicate that Mars was much wetter long ago. The low-lying deposits point to places where water was once abundant, then evaporated, leaving the minerals behind.
4 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Dunes on floor of Samara Valles, Mars

These dusty dunes sit on the floor of Samara Valles. The picture was taken March 4, 2010, by the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars orbiter. This 3,300-foot-wide image is of the upper portion of the Samara Valles, one of the longest ancient valley systems on Mars.
5 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Deposits on the floor of Palos Crater

Near Mars' equator, this image of the Palos Crater taken March 8, 2010, shows bumpy, layered knobs, possibly created by the layering of fluvial sediments carried into the crater by waters running through the 112-mile-long Tinto Vallis.
6 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Dust-mantled topography near Zephyria Tholus

This white, dusty image taken by HiRISE on March 9, 2010, shows high-standing topography just outside the rim of an impact crater about 18 miles in diameter near a Martian hill named Zephyria Tholus.
7 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizon

Lobate Debris Apron in Deuteronilus Mensae

The Deuteronilus Mensae region along the highland-lowland dichotomy boundary in the northern hemisphere of Mars is marked by many mesas surrounded by lobate debris aprons.
Radar data from the Shallow Radar instrument on the Mars orbiter has shown them to be composed of nearly pure ice, formations possibly associated with rock glaciers, ice-rich mass movements, or debris-covered glacial flows resulting from activity more than 10 million years ago. The picture was taken March 9, 2010.
8 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Intra-Crater Structure in NW Hellas Basin, Mars

With sweeping terrain possibly signifying volcanic activity, the Hellas Basin in southern Mars is about 1,400 miles across and is home to the lowest elevations on Mars--a good spot to survey in the search for signs of water and ice.
Hellas is one of the largest impact craters in the solar system. It is thought to be very old and may yield clues to millions of years of geologic activity.
9 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Polygonal ridgex in Gordii Dorsum Region, Mars

Polygonal ridges in the Gordii Dorsum region of Mars show almost geometric patterns in this image taken April 9, 2010.
Scientists have hypothesized that the ridges may have formed through processes involving liquid water once present in the area.
10 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Northern hemisphere gullies on West-Facing Crater Slope, Mars

Gullies and channels visible in this image taken on April 13, 2010, may have been formed by flowing water, liquid carbon dioxide, or dry granular flows.
Formations found in this west-facing side of an impact crater in the mid-latitudes of Mars' northern hemisphere are indicative of an ice-rich terrain. "Scalloped" terrain in and around the crater and the presence of parallel lines and pitted material on the crater floor may be a sign of surface caving, perhaps due to underlying ice.
11 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

A gem of a find

Nearby this ancient, eroded crater, scientists observed layered rock, billowing sand dunes, and evidence of a pinkish-colored layer of light-toned rock that contains opal.
12 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/UT

North polar cap cross section

The Mars orbiter's Shallow Radar (SHARAD) captured this cross-section image of the north polar ice cap on Mars.
The layers of ice shown here are more than a mile thick and 155 miles across. They offer valuable information on the geologic history of Mars and how each layer was formed through time.
13 of 22 NASA/JPL/UA

'Opportunity' at Crater's Cape Verde

Near the rim of Victoria Crater is the Mars rover Opportunity at Meridiani Planum near the equator of Mars, where it has been operating on Mars since January 2004.
Shown in the image are Duck Bay, the eroded segment of the crater rim where Opportunity first arrived at the crater, Cabo Frio, a sharp promontory to the south of Duck Bay, and Cape Verde, another promontory to the north.
14 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Sand dunes and ripples in Proctor Crater, Mars

In this image taken by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer (CRISM) on the Mars orbiter, the Martian surface is shown in enhanced color from visible-light wavelengths showing light-toned rugged highland material in an area near the equator. The image shows an area about six miles wide.
15 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Proctor Crater

Following studies of martial soils by the rovers on the ground, scientists know that the bright, small ridges in this image, which shows the Proctor Crater, are ripples composed of fine sand less than 200 microns in diameter.
The larger, darker bedforms are dunes composed of fine basaltic sand that is derived from dark, volcanic rock.
16 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Dunes and inverted crater in Arabia Terra

"Inverted topology," such as this inverted crater in the Arabia Terra region of Mars, is found on Earth, too.
Following the initial impact of the meteor, which created this 820-foot-diameter crater, sediment filled in the crater, and then erosion stripped away the surrounding topography, leaving this inverted topography sticking up above the surrounding plains.
17 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars moon in color and 3D

A stereo color view of Phobos, the larger and inner most of Mars' two tiny moons, is seen in this image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on the Mars prbiter. The orbiter was 3,600 miles away from the 13-mile-diameter moon when the HiRISE camera took the images. At that distance, the camera was able to resolve features about 49 feet across.
"Phobos is of great interest because it may be rich in water ice and carbon-rich materials," said Alfred McEwen, HiRISE'd principal investigator at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
18 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

First observation of columnar jointing on Mars

Columnar jointing fracturing is evident in these layered rocks on Mars and is the result of molten lava contracting as it cools and hardens.
Similar column-forming fracture textures are common on Earth and can be found in the Colombia River Basalt Group and in the Colorado Plateau.
19 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Dust-devil tracks in Southern Schiaparelli Basin

Vortices of wind that form when air rises from a warm surface and encounters shear in the above atmosphere have picked up the bright dust from the Martian surface, exposing the dark bedrock surface below in the southern Schiaparelli Basin.
20 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech

Bright exposures of chloride salts

Evidence that this site and about 200 other sites in the southern highlands of Mars are home to deposits of chloride salts comes from observations by the Thermal Emission Imaging System on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. The salt deposits typically lie within topographic depressions, places where water was once abundant, then evaporated, leaving the minerals behind.
21 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech

Spirit's winter home

This is a portion of an image called the "McMurdo Panorama," taken by the panoramic camera on NASA's Spirit rover during its winter campaign of 2006. The view is looking toward the north at Husband Hill, the dark-toned El Dorado dune field, and the light-toned Home Plate feature. Husband Hill is about 2,800 feet from the rover's winter site. Wind-blown ripples are evident in the field in the foreground, along with vesicular basalt rock. Tracks made by Spirit as it left Home Plate are also visible.
22 of 22 NASA/JPL-Caltech

Clay at Nili Fossae

This image of the Nili Fossae region of Mars was compiled from separate images taken by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) and the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), two instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The Mars Express spacecraft, OMEGA, discovered that some of the most ancient regions of Mars are rich in clay minerals, formed when water altered the planet's volcanic rocks. Clays are an indicator of wet, benign environments possibly suitable for biological processes, making Nili Fossae and comparable regions important targets for both CRISM and HiRISE.
In this visualization of the combined data from the two instruments, the CRISM data was used to calculate the strengths of spectral absorption bands due to minerals present in the scene. The two major minerals detected by the instrument are olivine, a mineral characteristic of primitive igneous rocks, and clay. Areas rich in olivine are shown in red, and minerals rich in clay are shown in green. The derived colors were then overlayed on the HiRISE image.

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