As the sun rises over Noctis Labyrinthus (the labyrinth of the night), bright clouds of water ice can be observed in and around the tributary canyons of this high plateau region of Mars. This color composite image, reconstructed through violet, green, and orange filters, vividly shows the distribution of clouds against the rust colored background of this Martian desert.
The picture was reconstructed by JPL's Image Processing Laboratory using in-flight calibration data to correct the color balance.
Scientists have puzzled why the clouds cling to the canyon areas and, only in certain areas, spill over onto the plateau surface. One possibility is that water which condensed during the previous afternoon in shaded eastern facing slopes of the canyon floor is vaporized as the early morning sun falls on those same slopes. The area covered is about 10,000 square kilometers (4000 square miles), centered at 9 degrees South, 95 degrees West, and the large partial crater at lower right is Oudemans. The picture was taken on Viking Orbiter 1's 40th orbit.