From NASA's Planetary Photojournal
The sharpest view of Mars ever taken from Earth was obtained by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and its Wide Field Planetary Camera- 2 (WFPC2) on March 10, 1997, just before Mars opposition, when the red planet made one of its closest passes to the Earth (about 60 million miles or 100 million km). At this distance, a single picture element (pixel) spans 13 miles (22 km) on the Martian surface.
The Martian north pole is at the top (near the center of the bright polar cap) and East is to the right. The center of the disk is at about 23 degrees north latitude, and the central longitude is near 305 degrees. This view was taken on the last day of Martian spring in the northern hemisphere (just before summer solstice). It clearly shows familiar bright and dark markings known to astronomers for more than a century. The annual north polar carbon dioxide frost (dry ice) cap is rapidly sublimating (evaporating from solid to gas), revealing the much smaller permanent water ice cap, along with a few nearby detached regions of surface frost. The receding polar cap also reveals the dark, circular sea of sand dunes that surrounds the north pole (Olympia Planitia).
Other prominent features in this hemisphere include Syrtis Major Planitia, the large dark feature seen just below the center of the disk. The giant impact basin Hellas (near the bottom of the disk) is shrouded in bright water ice clouds. Water ice clouds also cover several great volcanos in the Elysium region near the eastern edge of the planet (right). A diffuse water ice haze covers much of the Martian equatorial region as well.
Image Title: Hubble's Sharpest View Of Mars
Catalog #: PIA01249
Target Name: Mars
Spacecraft: Hubble Space Telescope
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Last Modified On: Monday, December 18, 2000