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Mysterious colors on Mars, near the landing site of Europe’s rover

Mysterious colors on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! Today the science team for the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) released a new captioned image, which I have cropped and reduced to post here to the right.

The photo was taken October 12, 2020, and shows a small very colorful area on top of an isolated hill. To quote the caption, written by Sharon Wilson:

An isolated, elongated mound (about 1 mile wide and 3.75 miles long) rises above the smooth, surrounding plains. Horizontal layers are exposed at the northern end of the mound, and its surface is characterized by a very unusual quasi-circular pattern with varying colors that likely reflect diverse mineral compositions.

…The origin of this mound is unknown, but its formation may be related to the clay-bearing rocks in the nearby Oxia Planum region.

Wider shot showing entire hill
Click for full image.

The photo is false color, combining wavelengths in red, blue, and the infrared. To the right is a section of the full image, showing the entire elongated mound. The white box marks the location of the section above. This second photo has been rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here. Its colors are different than the image above because it uses different color filters, the red, blue, and green bands, thus producing colors closer to natural light.

As the caption notes, scientists don’t know what formed this isolated mound. Nor do they yet know the full meaning of the colors, or the cause of the many strange features on this mound.

The latitude here is about 19 degrees north. The location itself on the lower edge of the transition zone between the low northern plains and the southern highlands. The yellow in the first image as well as the red in the second suggests dust and sand. You can also see sand dunes inside the nearby craters. This is likely a dry place.

Overview map

It is also near Oxia Planum, the targeted landing site of Europe’s Rosalind Franklin rover, now scheduled to launch to Mars in 2022. The overview map to the right shows the landing ellipse, with this photo’s location about 130 miles away from the center of that ellipse and marked by the white cross.

To the west are the locations where Viking 1 and Pathfinder landed, in 1976 and 1997 respectively.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

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