Bill DunfordMar 25, 2013

A Different Angle on Mars

The Mars Global Surveyor mission was always a special one for me. This trailblazing orbiter was one of the first that I followed on an almost daily basis during its nine years in orbit. As new images appeared with regularity on the mission's web site, I relished the Martian vistas they revealed--alien, exotic, yet also familiar. Among this expedition's many discoveries were the first closeups of active crater gullies that suggested the possibility of modern water flows underground.

A little rummaging through the online attic of raw and processed data from the mission uncovered some intriguing images. I picked a few of my favorites and cleaned them up just a bit. Like all Mars Global Surveyor shots, these are views of the Red Planet from orbit. What's different here is the highly oblique angle of these images. In each, the powerful Mars Observer Camera is not oriented straight down for maximum resolution, but off toward the horizon.

The result is a set of views that make me think of what it might be like to be at Mars, flying over the planet in person, looking out the window. Be sure to enlarge them, and see if you enjoy them as much as I did.

Martian Mountainside
Martian Mountainside The Mars Global Surveyor captured this striking oblique view of the Solar System's greatest mountain, Olympus Mons. The extinct volcano towers 27 kilometers (17 miles) high. I've smoothed some of horizontal streaks that appeared in the original image. Click to enlarge. NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems/Bill Dunford
The Long View
The Long View A cratered landscape and the thin wisp of Martian air as seen by the Mars Global Surveyor. I've removed some of the horizontal image artifacts from the raw image. NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems/Bill Dunford
Cloudy Martian Mountaintop
Cloudy Martian Mountaintop The Mars Global Surveyor orbiter caught this unusual view of the great volcano Arsia Mons shrouded in clouds. NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems/Bill Dunford
Morning Horizon
Morning Horizon A view of the Martian horizon at dawn, as seen from space by the Mars Global Surveyor. NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems/Bill Dunford

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