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Hubble Heritage Archive: Mars Near Opposition 2016

22 Oct 2020, 12:00 UTC
Hubble Heritage Archive: Mars Near Opposition 2016
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The text and images in this article were originally published on May 19, 2016, and reflect information about Mars available at that time.

Hubble Takes Mars Portrait Near Closest Approach

Bright, frosty polar caps, and clouds above a vivid rust-colored landscape reveal Mars as a dynamic seasonal planet in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope view taken on May 12, when Mars was 50 million miles from Earth. The Hubble image reveals details as small as 20 to 30 miles across.

The large, dark region at far right is Syrtis Major Planitia, one of the first features identified on the surface of the planet by seventeenth century observers. Christiaan Huygens used this feature to measure the rotation rate of Mars. (A Martian day is about 24 hours and 37 minutes.) Today we know that Syrtis Major is an ancient, inactive shield volcano. Late-afternoon clouds surround its summit in this view.

A large oval feature to the south of Syrtis Major is the bright Hellas Planitia basin. About 1,100 miles across and nearly five miles deep, it was formed about 3.5 billion years ago by an asteroid impact.

The orange area in the center of the image is Arabia Terra, a vast ...

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