The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been zipping around the Red Planet for more than a decade now, scouting out the surface of our next space conquest. It was images from the MRO that confirmed the existence of long-ago watery Martian environments—and that liquid water may still flow over the planet’s surface. Now we’ve got the MRO to thank for a different kind of revelation: 1036 spectacular new images of Mars’s craters, crevices, and plains.
To date, the MRO has been around Mars more than 10,000 times and returned scores of images from its HiRise camera. Why the sudden influx of pretty pictures? Cosmic alignment. Once every 26 months, Earth finds itself directly between Mars and the Sun. The wide-open path between us and Mars makes communication with the orbiter much easier.
On top of that, this year’s alignment slides into place right in time for Mars’s equinox, a time when the Sun’s rays light the planet from pole to pole. You couldn’t ask for a better photo opportunity.
Check out some of our favorite images below, and then drift on over to the HiRise website for the other kajillion. (Seriously, they're all worth a peek.)
Russell crater dunes
All images from NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
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