The Hubble Space Telescope never ceases to amaze us. This time, it has captured a stunning footage of Mars, showing the red planet in great details with ice caps, craters, clouds and other features. The close-up footage shows details as small as 20 miles across. Hubble took the photo on May 12, when the red planet was just 50 million miles from Earth.
Photo taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3
May 2016 is a good month to view the red planet up close. Mars and Earth will be closest they have been in 13 years on May 30, when the red planet will be only 46.8 million miles away. In 2003, the two planets came within 36.65 million miles of each other, according to the European Space Agency. That’s the closest they had been in more than 60,000 years.
Mars is nearly in the “Opposition” when the red planet and the sun are on the opposite sides of our planet. As a result, the sun fully lights up the red planet, as seen from Earth. It allows telescopes on the ground and in space to see more details on the Martian surface. The new image was taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 instrument. It shows the geological features of the red planet in their natural color.
Geological features of the red planet
The red planet’s elliptical orbit brings it close to Earth every 780 days. On the right in the image is the Syrtis Major, which the 17th-century astronomer Christiaan Huygens had used to measure the rotation rate of Mars. This dark region was a mystery for a long time, but researchers now know that it’s an ancient inactive shield volcano. In the Hubble footage, the Syrtis Major is covered by clouds.
At the center of the image is Arabia Terra, a vast upland area spread over 2,800 miles. Its heavily eroded and densely cratered landscape suggests that it could be one of the oldest features on the planet. To the south of Arabia Terra are Sinus Sabaeus and Sinus Meridiani. The European Space Agency said in a statement that these two regions are covered by bedrock from ancient lava flows.