The best photos of Mars in 2022
The Red Planet is desolate, frozen, and has an atmosphere 1% thicker than ours. Its winds blow in great gusts that kick up global dust storms that make and break missions to Mars that rely on solar power for power.
Fortunately, spacecraft on and over Mars keep us earthlings up-to-date on Martian weather and the best views of Martian wanderlust. Whether through the magnified oculus of Perseverance’s WATSON camera or the all-seeing eye of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, these are the best images of Mars released this year.
canyon system from above
Ius and Tithonium Chasmata on Mars.
The Mars Express Orbiter took images of Valles Marineris, a canyon system about 10 times longer, 20 times wider, and five times deeper than the Grand Canyon on Earth. It’s hard to fathom the scale of such a structure, but the image, taken from miles above the Martian surface, shows that the planet’s exterior is much more topographically dynamic than some rover images give you. would make believe It’s all about perspective.
Martian clouds look like clouds on Earth.
Two cameras aboard the Mars Express orbiter captured images of Martian dust storms that kicked up around the planet’s North Pole. Interestingly, the images appeared to show Martian clouds similar in structure to clouds on Earth. It’s another reminder that despite the many differences between the two planets, they do have their similarities.
A precariously balanced rock
A balance rock detected by Perseverance.
“Okay,” you might say, “this one has got be foreigners.” But is not! A rock detected by Perseverance in June could be seen very delicately positioned on a large boulder sticking out of the ground. The rock appears to be a precariously balanced rock (or PBR), a technical term for a rock formation that is also sprouts on Earth.
First image of Mars from the Webb Space Telescope
The Webb Space Telescope went local in September when it took images of Mars with its Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam). The state-of-the-art space observatory took images of the red planet’s surface, namely Huygens Crater, the Hellas Basin and Syrtis Major, a dark spot that separates the planet’s northern lowlands from the southern highlands. The telescope also took spectroscopic data from the Martian atmosphere, revealing some details about its molecular makeup.
The infamous martian gate
According to NASA, this rock formation is not an alien gate.
In May, the Curiosity rover (bless its industrious robotic heart) snapped an image of a peculiar rock formation on Mars’ Mount Sharp that almost everyone agrees looks like an alien doorway. (Alien in the sense that it’s on Mars, since who knows what the alien gates actually look like.) Of course, NASA has ruled out the Internet theory. The feature is apparently only a foot tall and is a split between two fractures in a rock. We see what we want to see especially on the red planet.
A meteorite impact site
On Christmas Eve 2021, a meteorite hit Mars. The impact was felt by the InSight lander, which normally detects seismic waves from Marsquakes. In 2022, the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took images of the impact site. It revealed ice kicked up by the space rock’s impact, with a large black blob as a blaring indicator of the rock’s presence.
Before (and after) the meteorite impact
The context camera, also on board MRO, took images of the site before and after the impact. The rock landed in Amazonis Planitia, a region that seems relatively flat in earlier times and quite interesting afterwards. A black dot is the meteorite’s notable impact site, and a debris field clearly extends outward from where the rock struck.
A tangle of Martian garbage
Human garbage on Mars, or the progeny of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
What the heck cool Martian is this? Alien litter? In July, Perseverance’s hazard avoidance camera captured a tangle of ropes that NASA officials confirmed were debris from the rover’s mission, though they weren’t sure what. Gizmodo commenters suggested the stringy debris could be connected to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Unfortunately, it’s more likely a reminder that even noble pursuits like space exploration have consequences like interplanetary contamination.
more martian garbage
Perseverance’s broken rear casing and crumpled parachute.
The Ingenuity helicopter took an image of part of the rear casing and crumpled parachute from the successful landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars. The rover landed in February 2021, and the debris was detected in April. The image is quite sharp, a welcome change from some of the previous shots of the Red Planet.
InSight on the day of the earthquake
InSight seismometer on May 4, 2022.
This image was taken by the InSight lander on May 4, the day its seismometer (covered in dust in this image) detected one of the largest Marsquakes ever detected on the planet. The Marsquake had a magnitude of 5.0; on Earth, that equates to an earthquake that one can feel but only causes minor damage.
Curiosity’s curiously scaly rocks
Flaky rocks seen by Curiosity in June 2022.
The Curiosity rover detected flaky rocks as it traversed Mount Sharp on Mars. Scientists know that liquid water once existed on Mars, and they believe these flaky rocks indicate where water currents flowed through the sand dunes.
InSight’s latest selfie
InSight’s final selfie, taken in April 2022.
The final InSight lander selfie was a sight to behold, in large part because it shows exactly why is the final selfie of the lander. InSight is being smothered by Martian dust clinging to its solar panels, meaning the lander can’t get enough power to persist. The InSight team has stopped using the lander’s camera to prolong its science operations, leaving us with this final view from InSight, which is expected to die in the coming months.
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