India’s historic first mission to Mars is returning stunning images of the Red Planet, including a full portrait of the planet highlighting a massive dust storm.
The latest image from the Mars Orbiter Mission released by the India Space Research Organization on Monday captures Mars in its entirety from a distance of 74,500 km. The planet’s southern ice cap is visible near the bottom of the image, along with a huge dust storm engulfing a large portion of the planet’s northern hemisphere.
“Somethings brewing here!” ISRO Officials said in a post on Twitter, referring to the enormous dust storm seen from orbit.
The image has captured the public’s attention online, with some remarking that they see a map of India outlined on the Martian surface near the center of the image.
In the center of the image the Meridiani Planum plain can be seen, where NASA’s Opportunity rover has been studying the western rim Endeavour Crater for three years now.
This follows two other images released by the ISRO since the spacecraft arrived at Mars last week. The first is a shot of the Martian surface taken from height of 7,300 km.
The second image highlights the thin Martian atmosphere as seen from an altitude of 8,449 km above Mars taken just two hours after orbital insertion.
Aside from India’s MOM, the only other Mars spacecraft capable of capturing global views of the Red Planet in a single shot is the ESA’s Mars Express.
“If the Mars Orbiter Mission does nothing else but return to us a variety of global images of Mars from different positions and phases, the mission will be a great success, as far as I’m concerned,” said Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society. “It’ll be a data set unlike any generated by any other mission, and the single-frame photos should find their way into lots of books and magazines, informing the public perception of Mars for years to come.”
All three images were captured by the Mars Color Camera onboard India’s MOM spacecraft. Unlikely most spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet, India’s MOM is able to capture both close-up and global views of Mars due to its highly elliptical orbit.
Learn more about India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, and its captivating photos of the Red Planet, in this blog from from the Planetary Society.