We know it as the “Red Planet” for its rusty color, which is a result of the high iron content in its soil. But Mars is no different from Earth inasmuch as it has polar regions and active weather patterns in its thin atmosphere. This infrared image of the surface of Mars recently released by NASA was captured by their Mars Odyssey Orbiter and shows these forces at work.
The image was released as part of NASA’s celebrations for the 20th anniversary of Mars Odyssey orbiter, the longest-working Mars spacecraft in history. The image shows rolling blue and gold dunes – a side of the planet rarely seen. Sculpted by the wind into long lines, this sea of dark dunes surrounds Mars’ northern polar cap and covers an area as big as Texas. The image itself covers an area 19 miles (30 kilometers) wide.
This scene combines images taken during the period from December 2002 to November 2004 by the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) on Odyssey. The camera captures the changing temperatures of Mars’ surface, providing valuable information regarding the planet’s composition and surface features.
The Mars Odyssey spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 7, 2001, and is still circling the Red Planet today.