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💫Mars' Syrtis Major Region and Hellas Impact Crater

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Taking advantage of Mars's closest approach to Earth in eight years, astronomers using the Hubble 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 telescope snapped these pictures between April 27 and May 6, 1999, 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, which, together, show the entire planet. Each view depicts the planet as it completes one quarter of its daily rotation.




This image is centered on the dark feature known as Syrtis Major, first seen telescopically by the astronomer Christiaan Huygens in the 17th century. Many small, dark, circular impact craters can be seen in this region, attesting to the Hubble telescope's ability to reveal fine detail on the planet's surface. To the south of Syrtis is a large circular feature called Hellas. Viking and more recently Mars Global Surveyor have revealed that Hellas is a large and deep impact crater. These Hubble telescope pictures show it to be filled with surface frost and water ice clouds. Along the right limb, late afternoon clouds have formed around the volcano Elysium.


Credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble


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