This spectacular view of the sunlit cliffs and basaltic sand dunes in southern Melas Chasma shows Mars in a way rarely seen: in full, realistic color. The colorization is the result of a collaboration between THEMIS team members at Cornell University and space artist Don Davis, who is an expert on true-color renderings of planetary and astronomical objects. Davis began with calibrated and co-registered THEMIS VIS multi-band radiance files produced by the Cornell group.
Using as a guide true-color imaging from the Hubble Space Telescope and his own personal experience at Mt. Wilson and other observatories, he performed a manual color balance to match more closely the colors of previous visual Mars observations. He also did some manual smoothing and other image processing to mimimize the effects of residual scattered light in the images. The result is a view of Mars that invites comparisons to Earth; a scene that one might observe out the window on a flight over the southwest United States, but not quite.
The basaltic dunes are commonplace on Mars but a rare feature on Earth. The rounded knobs and elongated mesas on the canyon floor show an erosional style as exotic as Utah's Bryce Canyon but wholly familiar on Mars. Although the inhospitable Martian atmosphere cannot be seen, the magnificent Martian landscape on display in this image beckons space-suited human explorers and the sightseers who will follow.