Mars as Art: Beauty and Discovery on the Red Planet

By NASA

Spacecraft have imaged the surface of Mars for more than five decades, revealing insights into the nature of our nearest planetary neighbor. But the first grainy images are a thing of the past - NASA's recent Mars missions have sent back ultra-high-resolution views in light wavelengths imperceptible by the human eye. We can appreciate these images for their beauty as well as their scientific value.

First TV Image of Mars (Hand Colored) (1964-11-28) by NASANASA

This hand colored picture from 1965 represents the first TV image of Mars - the first image of the Red Planet sent back to Earth by a visiting spacecraft. But NASA's Mars images have come a long way since then...

Meridiani Planum (2004) by NASANASA

Spacecraft like NASA's Mars Odyssey can take images in different wavelengths or "colors" of infrared light that reveal characteristics of surface materials.

This image is a false-color view of a part of Meridiani Planum, northeast of where NASA's Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, landed in January 2004. Soon after landing there, Opportunity found what it had been sent from Earth to find: evidence of liquid water in the Martian past.

Mars Ground Temperature - false-color image by NASANASA

False colors can help reveal the nature of the ground surface.

This map of the Martian surface is color-coded for temperature.

Gale Crater's History Book (2006) by NASANASA

This view combines a daytime photo taken at visible wavelengths with a nighttime infrared image.

Bluish-white tones mark areas with fine-grain materials thickly covering the surface, while redder tints indicate where harder, rockier material lies exposed.

Canyon Junction (2005) by NASANASA

This false-color view combines visible light images made during daytime with nighttime infrared images.

The nighttime view records the predawn temperature of the surface, which can tell scientists about the nature of materials on the ground.

Terra Sirenum (2009) by NASANASA

This false-color view combines visible light images made during daytime with nighttime infrared images.

Icy New Impact (2010-05-19) by NASANASA

More naturally-colored, high-resolution images, like those from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, can reveal small-scale changes on the planet's surface, such as fresh craters.

This image shows an impact crater that had not existed when the same location on Mars was observed about two years earlier. The new impact excavated and scattered water ice that had been hidden beneath the surface.

Small Flower-Shaped Volcano (2011-10-11) by NASANASA

An 'enhanced color' color scheme can be useful for emphasizing subtle differences on the surface.

Colorful Streaks (2010-01-04) by NASANASA

This enhanced color image displays colorful streaks where the bedrock is eroding, moving downhill a bit, and then getting swept by the wind.

Eastern Floor of Aram Chaos (2009-08-18) by NASANASA

A high-resolution, enhanced-color view showing exposed layers that may contain minerals formed in the presence of water.

Dust Devils on Mars (2009-08-24) by NASANASA

These patterns were created by Martian dust devils. Like on Earth, they often expose materials just underneath the surface.

Polygonal Patterned Ground (2010-02-13) by NASANASA

Scientists study polygon patterns on the surface of Mars for clues about the distribution of water ice in the shallow subsurface, as well as the planet's climate.

Seasonal Processes: Ice Sublimation (2012) by NASANASA

Images of the same features, taken at different times in the Martian year, can reveal changes that occur with the planet's seasons.

Transient features like frost can appear and disappear in images taken a few months apart.

Frost-Covered Dunes in a Crater (2012-04-01) by NASANASA

Dunes are often found on crater floors. In the winter, at high northern latitudes, the terrain is covered by carbon-dioxide ice (dry ice).

Sand Dunes Near the North Pole (2010-05-30) by NASANASA

This picture was taken during the Martian summer with only small patches of ice remaining at the surface; they show up as bright, somewhat blue, spots on slopes that provide some shading from the Sun.

East Rim of Endeavour Crater (2010-10-31) by NASANASA

Gazing across the dusty surface, NASA's Mars rovers become robotic landscape photographers, showing us the Red Planet from a human point of view.

Credits: Story

For more images taken by NASA's Mars missions, visit the NASA Mars program website.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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