Enlarging a Mars photo album

A new set of more than 18,000 images of Mars, posted online in early October, features the sharpest picture of the Red Planet ever taken by an orbiting spacecraft. That image, a view of gullies in a crater in the Newton Basin, allows planetary scientists to study features as small as a school bus.

One of the highest-resolution images obtained from Mars shows gullies in Newton Basin. NASA/JPL/MSSS

The newly archived planetary images (http://www.msss.com/moc_gallery/e07_e12/globalmaps.html) were recorded by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft between August 2001 and January 2002. Surveyor, which arrived at the Red Planet in 1997 and continues to map the Martian surface and climate, has returned more data on Mars than all other Mars missions combined.

Other images in the new series show planetwide dust storms and the springtime retreat of the south polar ice cap. Scientists are using some of the pictures to help choose a landing site for the Mars Exploration Rover mission, which is scheduled for launch next year.


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