Taking advantage of Mars's closest approach to Earth in eight years, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have taken the space-based observatory's sharpest views yet of the Red Planet. NASA is releasing these images to commemorate the second anniversary of the Mars Pathfinder landing. The lander and its rover, Sojourner, touched down on the Red Planet's rolling hills on July 4, 1997, embarking on an historic three-month mission to gather information on the planet's atmosphere, climate, and geology.
The telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 snapped images between April 27 and May 6, when Mars was 54 million miles (87 million kilometers) from Earth. From this distance the telescope could see Martian features as small as 12 miles (19 kilometers) wide. The telescope obtained four images (see PIA01587), which, together, show the entire planet.
This image is centered near a volcanic region known as Elysium. This area shows many small, dark markings that have been observed by the Hubble telescope and other spacecraft to change as a result of the movement of sand and dust across the Martian surface. In the upper left of this image, at high northern latitudes, a large chevron-shaped area of water ice clouds mark a storm front. Along the right limb, a large cloud system has formed around the Olympus Mons volcano.
This color composite is generated from data using three filters: blue (410 nanometers), green (502 nanometers), and red (673 nanometers).