On our neighbouring planet Mars, it is mainly wind – through its force and the dust and sand particles it carries – that shapes the terrain structures, wearing them away over the course of millions of years.
Previously, images of Mars were available in strip format – strip by strip carefully flown with the European Mars Express spacecraft and processed into three-dimensional terrain models and perspective images. Now, planetary scientists, under the leadership of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have, for the first time, joined these individual 50 to 100 kilometre wide strips to create a single large-scale map.
These images, acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) operated by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) on board ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft, show a region close to Cydonia Mensae in the northern hemisphere of Mars.
The mountain massif of Phlegra Montes extends into the northern lowlands of Mars like a long, slightly curved salient. Stretching for hundreds of kilometres, this alignment of numerous mountains, rolling hills and ridges lies to the east of the volcano Hecates Tholus in the Elysium volcanic region.
Nili Fossae caught the attention of astronomers in the last century, when Mars could only be observed from Earth with ground-based telescopes. The grabens of Nili Fossae extend for several hundred kilometres along the eastern edge of the giant impact basin Isidis Planitia and, together with the volcanic region Syrtis Major, they form a concentric pattern that runs parallel to the edge of the basin.
It follows an elliptical orbit around Mars, undisturbed, almost lonely – the orbiter Mars Express. For 11 years now – to be precise since Christmas Eve 2003 – the first and, for some time now, European Space Agency longest-serving interplanetary mission has been travelling around our planetary neighbour.
These images, acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, show a part of the Hellas Planitia impact basin illuminated in warm bronze and golden hues. The camera is operated by DLR and is being used to systematically image the surface of the Red Planet in 3D and in colour for the first time.
Comet Siding Spring came extraordinarily close to Mars on 19 October 2014. The celestial body - a mere 500 metres in diameter - passed the Red Planet at a distance of just 137,000 kilometres, where it was observed by several spacecraft in orbit around Mars.
Among the most interesting landforms on Mars are features referred to as 'chaotic terrain'. Dozens or even hundreds of isolated mountains up to 2000 metres high are scattered in these extensive regions. Seen from orbit, they form a bizarre, chaotic pattern.
On 20 April 2014, the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on the ESA Mars Express spacecraft, which is operated by DLR, imaged the northern part of the enormous Argyre Planitia impact basin in the southern hemisphere of Mars. At that time, it was deep winter in the area, as can easily be seen from the ground frost covering the interior of Hooke Crater and large sections of the landscape in the image.
When looking at Mars through a telescope, once does not usually recognise many landscape features – especially since observations are often affected by dust storms that rage in the Martian atmosphere. The Hellas Planitia impact basin is, however, visible as a large, light, almost circular area in the southern hemisphere. Images of the deepest parts of this impact basin – with unusually great visibility – have now been acquired with the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), operated by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) on board ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft.
The richly varied terrain of Hellespontus Montes on Mars is showcased in these images, acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) operated by DLR on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft. On the western edge of the huge Hellas Planitia impact basin, traces can be seen of the icy streams that once flowed here.
A myriad of terrain types are found across the Terra Sirenum region in the southern highlands of Mars. Within the Atlantis basin, a complex and rugged landscape spread across roughly 200 kilometres known as Atlantis Chaos just begins to exemplify the broad diversity of geological processes that occurred in this relatively small area.
A vast field of black dunes, towering up to 200 metres in places, is located at the centre of Rabe Crater.
With its gently curving channels and teardrop-shaped islands, it is easy to forget that highly destructive events gave rise to the attractive landscape of Osuga Valles on Mars. Multiple gigantic flood events formed this dendritic network of floodwater valleys.
These images, acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), operated by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) on board the European Mars Express spacecraft, show the extent to which volcanism has shaped the surface of Mars.
Recent images acquired with the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), operated by DLR on board the European Space Agency Mars Express spacecraft, show a portion of the Claritas Rupes escarpment on Mars that surrounds the Claritas Fossae graben system. It forms the eastern boundary of the gigantic Tharsis volcanic region, where the biggest volcanoes on Mars are located.
Engineers and scientists cheered and exchanged 'high fives' when the first images from the German camera system on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft appeared on the monitors at the DLR Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin.
The water that once flowed across Mars in its early days has left many traces. Among these, two terraced mountains located in the Juventae Chasma basin stand out; they appear to be composed of sediment layers. Spacecraft overflights have revealed that these are sulphate deposits containing minerals such as gypsum, alabaster or kieserite, which usually require water to form.
Gentle, rounded landscapes make up the Ismeniae Fossae, and can be seen in these newly released images created using data acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) operated by DLR on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft.