The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, instrument aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sends back a steady stream of spectacular images revealing subtle and not-so-subtle surface features on the red planet. In this view, late winter sunlight, striking the martian surface at a very low angle, contributed to an intriguing HiRISE image of sand dunes dusted with carbon dioxide frost and dust. Dark spots could be areas where underlying sand is exposed thanks to earlier defrosting activity. In a tweet about the photo, the HiRISE team wrote “It was hard not to title this ‘The Duck of Mars.'” The image is the first in a new series of observations designed to track seasonal processes. The complete photo strip is available here. Can you spot the duck?
Extensive systems of fossilised riverbeds have been discovered on an ancient region of the Martian surface on a northern plain called Arabia Terra, supporting the idea that the now cold and dry Red Planet had a warm and wet climate about 4 billion years ago, according to University College London-led research.
At the end of July 2018, Mars makes its closest approach to Earth since the memorable opposition of 2003. This summer sees the Red Planet big and bright, low in the south around 1am BST, but now’s the time to train your eye to detect prominent Martian surface features – dust storms permitting! We present our interactive Mars Mapper to help plan your observations.