One of the most striking features of a global view of Mars is the dichotomy between the topographically diverse highlands in the southern hemisphere and the flat, expansive lowland plains of its northern counterpart. Many landscape features shaped by erosion can be observed in the transitional zone between the highlands and lowlands, which explains the particular geological interest in this region.
The latest 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 Space Agency (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft, show a runout of the Aurorae Chaos region – an eastern continuation of the massive Valles Marineris graben system on Mars.
During Mars' geological 'Middle Ages' – the Hesperian Period – which began 3.7 billion years ago and lasted until approximately 3.1 billion years ago, strong volcanic activity was present on our neighbouring planet. Volcanoes spewed low viscosity lava that poured out in masses over the surface and gave rise to extensive plains.
"In your face, Neil Armstrong!" – as he says these words, NASA astronaut Mark Watney senses for the first time that he might have only a very small chance of getting out of his predicament alive. Watney is 'The Martian' in the film of the same name (release date in Germany: 8 October) who, in a not too distant future, finds himself stranded on the Red Planet.
The primary task of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft is to acquire high-resolution image data for the mapping of Mars. For this purpose, the optical system is normally directed perpendicular to the surface of the planet.
Countless myths have been woven around the legendary realm of Atlantis. Circa 350 BC, the philosopher Plato depicted a maritime power situated in Atlantis that controlled broad areas of Europe and Africa. It was most likely an island whose inhabitants ruled over the people living in the multiple regions bordering the Mediterranean.
Geology is a fairly young science when compared with physics, mathematics or astronomy. Emerging from the quest for natural resources and ores, it developed into an independent field of research only in the last few centuries.
Today, Mars appears bone-dry and dusty – but new analyses of Istok crater provide evidence of periodic flows of debris from its walls into its interior. "What is surprising is that it must have happened reasonably often," explains Ernst Hauber, a planetary researcher at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).
At present, the Siloe Patera construct in the Martian highlands is the cause of much debate among scientists. Is Siloe Patera actually the remains of a supervolcano? There is evidence to suggest this – but also evidence against it. It is a current example of an interesting geoscientific debate.
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.