Scientists are busy trying to find answers to the questions – is Mars habitable… is there a potential for life beneath the Martian crust? Mars is the fourth planet and the furthest terrestrial planet from the Sun. It is known as the “Red Planet” because the reddish colour of its surface is due to finely-grained iron (III) oxide dust in the soil.
But a new image of Mars is raising questions over its redness. It looks like Mars isn’t as red as we might have thought.
The new mosaic of Mars has been released to mark 20 years since the launch of the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Mars Express, which is a spacecraft that has been orbiting the planet for two decades.
Mars Express’s High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC)’s data was used to create the mosaic. The image reveals the planet’s colour and composition in spectacular detail… not so red.
On its website, ESA said that Mars appears in the night sky different from all the other gleaming dots in the darkness. Notably, the changing atmosphere of Mars has made it difficult to see all the colours on the planet from space in the past.
In a post, ESA said that the “dust scatters and reflects light, causing colours to shift between images”. The space agency said that when the mismatched pieces are put together, the result is usually patchy looking.
The images reveal unprecedented colour variations and the planet’s diverse composition. The mosaic by ESA highlights reddish oxidized iron, dark volcanic basaltic sands, and bright areas. It suggests the past presence of liquid water.
The mosaic produced here by HRSC gathered 90 images at higher altitudes of 4000 to 10,000 km. It is capturing areas around 2500 km wide and when these images were then put together to form a full global view. The process helped to produce a richer colour view of Mars than has been seen before.