Unfortunately, David Bowie was wrong about spiders on Mars. A new image of what seems like a giant blue tarantula on the surface of Mars. In fact, a fake color depicts a series of tracks created by Martian dust. The photo is one of the many captured by the ExoMars Trace Gas Europe Orchestra, some of which were released today to enjoy the viewing experience.
Orbiter ExoMars Trace Gas (TGO) arrived in Mars in October 2016, but it did not enter its low orbit on the planet until February 2018. This project is driven by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Roskosmos and its main mission is to hunt for trace elements such as methane to help scientists better understand the ability of the Red Planet – or its former potential – to promote life.
But TGO arrived in Mars with a fairly distinct camera, known as the Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS), which it uses to study the surface of Mars from orbit. CaSSIS is unique in that it can use its camera to create high-quality, crystal clear images in 3D, in addition to conventional 2D images. The new set of photos published today is a good example of what the TGO can do.
An incorrectly colored image of the Terra-Sabaya on Mars shows a set of spider-like features on the surface. In fact, these are the traces left by dusty devils, frequent weather on Mars. This pattern was observed on the crest of the spine, and this, in essence, coincides with hundreds, and maybe thousands of smaller Martian tornadoes, according to the ESA. The image was shown as a color composite to display surface features. Its actual color, stated in the ESA, will be dark red, as dust devils are subjected to fresh material below the surface
TGO also noticed NASA's InSight landing site, which was previously photographed by NASA's orbiter. This is the first photo taken by InSight by ExoMars, and it was the first time in Europe on Mars, according to an ESA press release. This image in gray shades was made March 2, 2019 – exactly at the same time as the probe climbed, albeit unsuccessfully, on a Martian surface (a digger stuck on an explicit rock, and NASA is now trying to figure out what to do … and no extraction method is possible)
The image shows an area of over 2 square kilometers. InSight is a small spot inside a dark spot, the last of which was produced by the retrigraphs of the probe during the landing. The space shuttle and parachute can be seen nearby.
Interestingly, TGO and InSight are team mates.
"TGO is used to transmit data from InSight to Earth," said Nicolas Thomas, Chief Researcher at CaSSIS, in a press release from the University of Bern. "Because of this function, in order to avoid uncertainty in communications, we were not able to bring the camera to the landing site so far – we had to wait until the landing site went directly under the spacecraft to get this image."
The activity selected by the InSight seismometer may be a sign that a meteorite has collapsed nearby. If this happens, the TGO will hunt for an exposed impact crater.
Other images include the edge of a layered mound in the Burroughs crater near the southern pole of Mars. Dust and ice formed layers in the crater for hundreds of millions of years, although the origin of ice in the crater is somewhat mysterious.
The image above shows a crater of one kilometer in a 100-kilometer Columbus crater, located in the southern hemisphere of Mars. The bright strip on the bottom of the image consists of various hydrated minerals, including sulfate salts.
The image depicts the creamy surface of the Hellas basin, which demonstrates the geological variation of the sometimes not-so-red planet. * The floor of the Kibuye crater in the Terra Sirenum region of Mars.
Other images released today show new features of the surface, polar layers, dunes and landscapes with dynamic topologies that scientists use to decipher the geological history of Mars. Some of them also have a stereoscopic look, so 3D glasses come out.
[University of Bern, ESA]