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Mars in HiRISE 3D..!

The Mars Reconaissance Orbiter team definitely believe in “sharing out the wealth” when it comes to the stunning images taken by the probe’s HiRISE camera. Every week they release a new batch of pictures for people to drool over and enjoy. This week was no exception – but this week there was a bonus: lots and lots of 3D images! Here’s a crop I made from one of those images, showing some rather impressive cliffs on the side of one of Mars’ many valleys…


How cool is that?! I think that images like that are incredibly valuable because really bring Mars to life, allowing the viewer to see how high mountains and mesas are, peer into the depths of valleys and pits, and follow the undulating lines of the martian landscape.

I’m a huge fan of such 3D images – or “anaglyphs” as they’re more formally known – and use them a lot in my Outreach work (the looks of amazement on kids faces when they hold up a pair of red and blue glasses and gaze down into a martian crater or across one of its rock-strewn plains is brilliant!) so I couldn’t resist delving into the new HiRISE data treasure chest in search of goodies. Here are some of the amazing sights I found – please click on each image below to bring up a full-size, jaw-droppingly amazing version… 🙂

( Please bear in mind tho, that if you’re sitting a long way from your screen the view will be somewhat distorted – there’ll appear to be a LOT more vertical relief in the images than there really is. Anaglyphs like this are often criticised for giving a “false impression” of terrain. But it’s not a problem, jus get your face close to your monitor for a more realistic view, or even better print out the pictures and look at them at “book distance”.)

This first image shows fractures and plates in a part of Mars known as Elysium…



Above we can see two of the infamous “pits”, which at first glance look like craters but are, we think, collapsed sections of the ceilings or roofs of lava tunnels… Let’s take a closer look…



Sheesh… just imagine standing on the edge of one of those pits and looking down at the cavern floor far, far below… what a view that would be… Some day martian explorers or scientists will venture down into these holes – maybe lowered on ropes by colleagues, maybe floating down in some as yet uninvented piece of martian tech – to study the rocks and minerals below the surface. I’m jealous of them already…! 🙂


Above: what we can see here is a very young (“very young” is a relative term, of course, it can still mean ‘millions of years old’ on Mars!) impact crater with a tall, eroded mesa or butte to its right.



Above: this area of Mars would look something like Earth’s ‘Monument Valley’ perhaps, it’s scattered with buttes and mesas and eroded landscape features. If you look to the left of the last image you can see a high, steep-sloped feature. A cinder cone? Another weathered, eroded mesa? I have no idea. If any geologists are reading this, feel free to chip in with some expert input!

And one last area of interest that caught my eye… look at how the gullies cut right through this crater…!


Looking at those anaglyphs makes me even hungrier and more impatient for the day when human eyes gaze down at Mars and see these unbelievable landscapes for real, not just through the electronic eyes of our robots. When will that be? Hmmm, now there’s a question. The way we’re going I really am starting to doubt I’ll actually live long enough to see it. But that’s a subject for another post…

Well done to the HiRISE team for giving us these stunning images! You really spoil us – and we love you for it! 🙂

7 Responses

  1. The first one explains why they tell you not to walk on the lava flows around volcanic vents.

    The third one looks like a collapse feature rather than impact carter.

  2. That is indeed a collapse feature – it’s one of the famous “pits” that seem to be collapsed roof sections of underground channels or lave tubes… or something… 😉

  3. Help! Where can I get 3D glasses???

  4. Best thing to do is go into your local discount bookstore or newsagent and look for a kids book or mag that is a “Dinosaurs!” or “Bugs!” 3D special that comes with a free set of glasses. There are usually one or two on the shelves. 😉

  5. Thanks very much – I love dinosaurs and bugs too so I’ll try that. 🙂

  6. When capturing 3D images, I recommend using an image format other than jpeg. Why? Because you can have feature ghosting that crosses the two independent images in the anaglyph. The jpeg compression assumes that color bands are spatially registered and uses this assumption to improve the compression ratio. However, with anaglyphs the color bands are not spatially registered (because of parallax between the two images in the stereo pair) and so the jpeg lossy compression results in image data from one color band being propagated to the other resulting in a “ghost” . This problem is revealed in the gully anaglyph you’ve included in your blog. You might have noticed that the HiRISE team switched over to png formatted files for the reduced-resolution 3D anaglyphs in order to avoid this problem. The png images are unfortunately larger but there is no anaglyph ghosting. Be nice to the HiRISE images and they will be nice to your readers. Cheers…

  7. […] seeing the images of sedimentary layers on Mars, they just may be right. After seeing the stunning Mars in HiRISE 3D at Cumbrian Sky, I’m sure they are (make sure you have your red-blue 3D specs with you for […]

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