The first photo of Mars delivered by the UAE's Hope probe is glorious

The United Arab Emirates' Hope spacecraft entered Mars orbit last week and already sent a simply dazzling image of the red planet.

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Jackson Ryan was CNET's science editor, and a multiple award-winning one at that. Earlier, he'd been a scientist, but he realized he wasn't very happy sitting at a lab bench all day. Science writing, he realized, was the best job in the world -- it let him tell stories about space, the planet, climate change and the people working at the frontiers of human knowledge. He also owns a lot of ugly Christmas sweaters.
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The first image of Mars snapped by the Al Amal, or Hope, spacecraft. The photo was captured at a distance of 15,500 miles from the planet's surface.

Emirates Mars Mission/Mohamed Bin Zayed

Mars is the place to be this month. Two spacecraft have already entered orbit around the red planet: China's Tianwen-1 got there on Feb. 10. And a day earlier, the United Arab Emirates made history by sliding the Al Amal (Hope) spacecraft into Martian orbit and becoming just the fifth country to reach Earth's dusty, barren neighbor. 

The first-ever Arab interplanetary mission has snapped a couple of images of Mars during its journey so far, but nothing quite like what it delivered early Sunday. From a distance of about 15,500 miles (25,000 kilometers), the probe's camera -- officially known as the Emirates eXploration Imager (EXI) -- captured a picturesque view of Mars as a yellowed semicircle against the black curtain of space.

Some of Mars most famous features are visible in the image. Olympus Mons, the biggest volcano in the solar system peeks out at the terminator, where the sunlight wanes, while the three volcanoes of the Tharsis Montes dazzle under a mostly dust-free sky. 

Enlarge Image

Olympus Mons is barely visible at the terminator, where night meets day. It's circled here, in red.

Emirates Mars Mission

The picture was shared in a tweet by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, de facto ruler of the UAE.

"The transmission of the Hope Probe's first image of Mars is a defining moment in our history and marks the UAE joining advanced nations involved in space exploration," he tweeted Sunday.  

The Al Amal mission hopes to provide the most complete picture of the Martian atmosphere yet. It's suite of instruments includes the EXI camera and both an ultraviolet and infrared spectrometer. Detailed observations will allow researchers to determine how particles escape from the gravity of Mars and reveal the mechanisms of global circulation in the lower atmosphere.

You can find previous images from the Hope probe at the Emirates Mars Mission website.

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