Mars Express And HRSCview Turns Everyone Into Explorers
March 25, 2013

Online Database Turns You Into Mars Explorer

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Our planet has been mapped out and explored for the most part, but there are plenty of other planets out there waiting to be discovered, and the European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express has provided the means to do so.

Mars Express has spent the last ten years snapping images of the Red Planet, and a web interface featuring an archive of these images offers up the chance to explore any region on Mars through the eyes of the ESA spacecraft.

The spacecraft has snapped so many images that not all of the scenes have been fully exacted to their full potential. HRSCview gives scientists the opportunity to be Lewis and Clark explorers from afar.

“The glamour shots of the planets that space agencies release are always gorgeous“¦but sometimes it´s fun to wander out on your own," said Planetary Society blogger Bill Dunford. "Almost all of the data collected by past and current planetary missions is posted online in one form or another."

Dunford used the HRSCview to explore the Noctis Labyrinthus, which sits on the western edge of Valles Marineris on Mars. This area is considered to be the Grand Canyon of Mars.

The image, Noctis Labyrinthus, was first captured by the Mars Express back in June 2006, and it features a complex tectonic region linked to the nearby Tharsis volcanic region.

"This scene is a composite of around half a dozen images," said ESA. "Bill selected the images he was interested in from HRSCview and stitched them together, filling in a few small gaps in the data by sampling the pixels immediately adjacent. He also brightened the resulting picture."

HRSCview allows anyone to sift through the Mars Express images, and even offers image processing to make the scenes “pop” more. ESA is asking people who use the application to submit images through email or Twitter.

In January, the Mars Express orbiter snapped a few images of a river-like formation on Mars. The spacecraft used its high-resolution stereo camera to photograph Ruell Vallis, a river-like structure believed to have formed when water use to flow on Mars. The structure stretches for nearly a thousand miles across the Martian landscape and is over four miles wide and nearly a thousand feet deep.

“These structures are believed to be caused by the passage of loose debris and ice during the ℠Amazonian´ period (which continues to this day) due to glacial flow along the channel,” the ESA wrote.

Be the first to discover features like those seen in images like Ruell Vallis using HRSCview.