Looking at Mars at Night in UV


This obviously false color animation of Mars shows how its atmosphere glows and pulsates in ultraviolet light every night. It was assembled from months of data taken by the MAVEN spacecraft orbiting Mars. The nightglows occur three times during each rotation of the planet about 70 km above the surface. All three occur at sunset (which is on the left limb of the planet in this view). The pulsations are believed to be caused by downward winds creating nitric oxide in the atmosphere which glows in the UV spectrum. The fact that the three glows occur in data averaged over several months indicates that they are a nightly occurrence.

Video Credit: NASA

THEMIS Looks at Phobos


These animations shows three views of the Martian moon Phobos as viewed by the Mars Odyssey orbiter. The apparent motion is due to movement by Odyssey’s camera, Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) rather than moon.

Each of the three panels is a series of images taken on different dates (from top to bottom): 29 September, 2017; 15 February, 2018; and 24 April, 2019. Deimos, Mars’ other moon, can also be seen in the second panel. These are visible light images, but THEMIS is mainly used for thermal-infrared scans.

Image Credit: NASA

Phobos and Deimos


Mars has two small moons. Phobos, which is about 11.5 km across, was imaged on 26 March, 2019, as in moved across the face of the Sun from Curiosity rover’s post of view. Deimos, which is only about 2.3 km across, was 17 March. Phobos doesn’t completely cover the Sun, so Curiosity saw what could be considered an annular eclipse. Deimos is so small compared to the disk of the Sun, astronomers would say it transited the Sun.

Image Credits: NASA

Bonus GIF—This series of images shows the shadow of Phobos as it sweeps over Curiosity and darkens the sunlight near sunset on 25 March.

Dusty Mars


These side-by-side movies show how dust has engulfed Mars. They’re derived from data taken by the Mars Color Imager onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The view from May shows Valles Marineris chasms (left), Meridiani center, an autumn dust storm in Acidalia (top) and the early spring south polar cap (bottom). The view from July shows the same regions hidden by the dust cloud and haze that covered the planet.

Video Credit: NASA

Olympus Mons


Olympus Mons is an extinct volcano on Mars. It’s the tallest mountain in the Solar System. This picture of the mountain was taken recently by the Indian Space Research Organization’s Mars Orbiter from an altitude of  8,387 km. The arrow indicates the summit which rises about 21 km above the mean surface level, so high that it’s effectively above the atmosphere. The white area around the mountain is a cloud formation.

Image Credit: ISRO

THEMIS, Deimos, and Phobos


These images of Phobos and Deimos, the moons of Mars, were taken by the Mars Odyssey orbiter’s THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System) camera using visible-wavelength light. The apparent motion of the moon caused by the camera’s point-of-aimaim being moved during the 17-second span of the observation.

The distance to Phobos from Odyssey during the observation was about 5,600 km. The Deimos was almost 20,000 km away.

Image Credit: NASA