While NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is exploring the red planet’s territory looking for traces of alien life, its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is observing the planet from a distance. Recently, the orbiter has sent some beautiful pictures of the Martian land back to NASA on Earth.
“Mail from mars," is what NASA calls the dispatch of the images in the caption of its Instagram post sharing them. In the three images shared by the space agency, first shows red-brown wavy stripes on Mars’ surface. According to NASA, the structures depict a formation of layered rocks in a Martian crater that has been named Jiji. The stair-like structures and buttes are a result of the erosion that the crater has suffered.
The second picture shows interesting patterns formed by dunes in the polar region of the red planet. When the picture was taken, Mars was in Northern Spring, a time when the planet is close to its farthest point from the sun and moves very slowly compared to its usual speed.
The third picture shared by the space agency shows ice sheets spread across the red planet’s south pole. Mars has polar ice caps on both its poles. During its polar winter, when a pole is under darkness for a long time, about 25-30% of Mars’ atmosphere deposits into frozen slabs of carbon dioxide. When the summer arrives and the sunlight hits a Martian pole, the frozen carbon dioxide sublimes back into the atmosphere. The ice sheets also show interesting patterns, like they are narrow muddy pathways in wide fields.
While these images are important for scientists to understand Mars and possibilities of alien life, they also provide wings to the imaginations of people about how it would feel to be in another world. Amused by the images, one Instagram user wrote in a comment, “When can I send a letter back?" Another Instagram user found the images to be wallpaper-worthy. “I need this to be my new wallpaper," they wrote.
What do you think about these images?