If it’s quiet solitude and beauty you seek, there is no better place than the surface of Mars.
Mars has earned its moniker as the red planet, but the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) can transform the subtle differences of soils into a rainbow of colours.
For 10 years, HiRISE has recorded gorgeous – and scientifically valuable – images of Mars.
Its photos are so detailed that scientists can examine the planet’s features at the scale of just a few feet, including the recent crash site of Europe’s Schiaparelli Mars lander.
We combed through 2,054 of the camera’s latest pictures, released in August, September, and October, to bring you some of the best – and hopefully help you temporarily escape Earth.
A large chasm:
Some dark, rust-colored dunes in Russell Crater:
NASA might land its next nuclear-powered Mars 2020 rover mission here.
The black splotch is where the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli Mars lander crashed. The white specks, pointed out with arrows, are pieces of the lander.
Read more about the accident here.
Zebra skin. Just kidding, this is a dune field that’s speckled with oval-shaped mineral deposits:
False-coloring this image makes a giant dune and its gullies look blue.
A possible landing site for the ExoMars 2020 mission, which the European Space Agency is running.
A North Pole dune field nicknamed “Kolhar,” after Frank Herbert’s fictional world.
Carbon dioxide that turns from solid to gas carves out these strange shapes at Mars’ south pole:
A recent impact crater on Mars. (We’re pretty sure no one put out a giant cigarette here.)
‘Spiders’ are eruptions of dust caused by the way the Martian surface warms and cools:
Cerberus Palus crater showing off layered sediments:
NASA keeps an eye of gullies like this for small landslides – and any water that melts in the warm sun to form darker-colored mud.
Another gully scientists are having HiRISE monitor:
Glacial terrain looks strangely iridescent:
A steep slope in Eastern Noctis Labyrinthus:
Dunes in a Martian crater. The red bar is an artifact of NASA’s image processing:
Wind-shaped dunes on Mars crawl across cracked soil in Nili Patera. The green bar is leftover from processing the image:
The same sand dunes in full color, a couple of months later:
The creation of ‘fans’ around dunes may help scientists understand seasonal changes on Mars:
Another possible landing site for the Mars 2020 mission:
Terrain near the Martian equator:
Ceraunius Fossae is a region dominated by volcanic flows and large cracks:
Beautiful texture in the region called North Sinus Meridiani:
False colours assigned to certain minerals make Syria Planum an inky blue that’s speckled with gold:
A crater on Arcadia Planitia, a large flat region of Mars:
Layers in Martian buttes found in a region called West Arabia:
A picture of Utopia Planitia, a large plain on Mars:
A bright speckle of minerals stands out on Galle (not Gale) Crater:
A small but recent impact crater:
Blowing sand eats through the rims of older craters:
Mars in all its two-toned glory:
Seasonal dunes on Mars nicknamed ‘Buzzel’.
Ridges cross the Nepenthes Mensae region, which is often referred to as a river delta for the striking pattern:
The edges of a debris apron, where cliff material eroded away.
Alluvial fans are some of the evidence that scientists used to confirm there was once water on Mars.
Exposed bedrock on the Capri Chasma, which may once have been filled with floodwaters:
This is the edge of a special layered deposit at Mars’ south pole.
The false-colour makes the white look like ice, but it’s just one of the many layers of rock and soil.
The shadow of Ganges Chasma looms tall:
Eos Chasma is part of Valles Marineris, the largest canyon on Mars.
A pedestal crater, where a crater has eroded away at different rates based on different rock types:
Watching Mars defrost.
Measuring changes in albedo, or how much light is reflected off the surface:
A basin floor:
An ancient and contorted Martian landscape that NASA is eyeing as a Mars 2020 landing site.
Some aptly-named ‘spider terrain’:
Another landing site candidate for the Mars 2020 mission.
An icy patch at Mars’ south pole that’s littered with dark spots.
Soft-looking dunes inside Herschel Crater:
A sinuous ridge on fretted terrain, which may be evidence of Mars’ glacial past.
Fractures in Utopia Planitia line up eerily neatly.
Scientists think these may be pieces of rock blown away by an impact:
Yardangs, which are sharp ridges scraped away by Mars’ harsh winds.
Seasonal changes have inked these dunes with lines of minerals by warming up dry ice.
Near the North Pole, in an area nicknamed ‘Windy City’.
These blotches aren’t shadows. When buried dry ice turns to gas in warmer weather, it pushes up darker minerals to surface.
Scientists call this location ‘Inca City’.
A rainbow-coloured sprinkling of minerals on a Martian slope.
Bright and dark fans on ground that resembles cracked mud:
The crest of a giant Martian sand dune:
Defrosting dry ice makes these strange patterns in the ground.
An impact crater sticks out in a patterned bed of minerals.
Ancient craters on Mars slowly fill up with sand dunes.
More ‘spider features’ that look curious.
We wouldn’t want to get lost in the dune fields of Amazonis Planitia.
A possible fault line in the Cerberus Fossae region of Mars.
This place is called ‘Ithaca’:
A pair of collapse pits in Ceraunius Fossae.
This crater near a region called Aonia Terra looks like part of the Death Star.
A fracture in the floor of Upper Morava Valles.
Mawrth Vallis, another ancient location that NASA is eyeing for landing the Mars 2020 rover.