Mars: Closest Encounter Hubble Space Telescope Image

[Mars on August 27, 2003, HST]

STScI PR 2003-22, August 27, 2003

These two images, taken 11 hours apart with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, reveal two nearly opposite sides of Mars. Hubble snapped these photos as the red planet was making its closest approach to Earth in almost 60,000 years. Mars completed nearly one half a rotation between the two observations.

The image at left was assembled from a series of exposures taken between 6:20 p.m. and 7:12 p.m. EDT Aug. 26 with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. Hubble snapped this photo when Mars and Earth were 34,648,840 miles (55,760,220 km) apart.

The prominent Martian features in this photo are Syrtis Major, the "shark-fin" shape on the right and the Hellas impact basin, the circular feature near the center of the image.

The image at right was snapped within minutes of the red planet's close rendezvous with Earth, when the two planets were 34,647,420 miles (55,757,930 km) apart. Mars is a mere 1,400 miles closer to Earth in this picture than in the one taken 11 hours earlier. This photo was assembled from a series of exposures taken between 5:35 a.m. and 6:20 a.m. EDT Aug. 27 with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.

The striking features in this portrait are Olympus Mons [the oval-shaped object just above center], the largest volcano in the solar system and Solis Lacus, an immense dark marking also known as the "Eye of Mars" [below, right].

Both images show most of the southern polar ice cap. The pictures were taken during the middle of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. During this season the Sun shines continuously on the southern polar ice cap, causing the cap to shrink in size [bottom of image]. The orange streaks are indications of dust activity over the polar cap.

Credit: NASA, J. Bell (Cornell U.) and M. Wolff (SSI)

Additional image processing and analysis support from: K. Noll and A. Lubenow (STScI); M. Hubbard (Cornell U.); R. Morris (NASA/JSC); P. James (U. Toledo); S. Lee (U. Colorado); and T. Clancy, B. Whitney and G. Videen (SSI); and Y. Shkuratov (Kharkov U.)

  • Annotation for the left image - Annotation for the right image
  • Diagram of the 2003 Mars Opposition
  • Original STScI Press Release 2003-22

  • More HST images of Mars
  • More on the 2003 Mars Apparition and Opposition
  • More on Mars Oppositions

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    Last Modification: September 1, 2003