Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mars is a work of art

People often ask why I am so fascinated with Mars.

These are often woodsy, earthbound types who either can't consider anything outside of this world to be of interest or they hear the word "astronomy" and instantly think "data and scholarly articles." The conventions of realpolitik often keep me from telling them to snork off, but if I feel I absolutely must answer the question, I have many reasons to give. Now, I can thankfully refer such inquisitors to this article at io9.

In one composite image you can see the strange landscape of Mars in all of its diverse, geological splendor. There are the remains of avalanches, carvings made in rock by floods (water on Mars!) and marks in the rusty-copper soil from fierce winds. Speaking of winds, you can see dunes shaped by them as well. You can also see craters, scars from where meteorites made it in past Mars' atmosphere. Together they create a mosaic effect worthy of the canvas of any landscape artist.

The images come from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Obviously many of the photographs are not the actual color of the Red Planet. For a detailed technical explanation of just why this is, click on the above link. As one particularly geeky reader of io9 (is there any other kind?) pointed out, the multicolor image gives the impression of a "patchwork planet," not unlike the Genesis planet from the original Star Trek film series.

Snow and sub-tropical vegetation in the same sector. Indeed.

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