Mars, seen from one pole to another

The European Space Agency has presented a new image of the planet next to Earth composed of photos taken in June by its probe Mars Express.

This probe has orbited the Red Planet since 2003. It has returned thousands of images of Mars over the last fifteen years, many of which, like this one, taken by its high-resolution stereoscopic camera.

It is possible to see the two poles of the planet, and its two hemispheres fundamentally different from each other, and in many respects.

The lands of the Northern Hemisphere, which are several kilometers lower than those of the southern lands, consist of areas devoid of significant relief. On the other hand, those of the South are damaged by thousands of impact craters.

The southern regions form canyons, cliffs, escarpments, valleys, and flat tabular reliefs (mesas).

In addition, the Martian bark is significantly thinner in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere.

This great difference between the two Martian hemispheres could be explained by the past presence of an ocean in the Northern Hemisphere.

As for the North Pole, it is permanently covered by a cap of frozen water and carbon dioxide, which thickens during the winter and thins during the summer season.

The polar cap is surrounded by shining clouds, whose tendrils snake towards the plains of the northern hemisphere.

Last laps

Launched in June 2003, Mars Express was to explore Mars for 23 months. Its mission has since been renewed three times, and should continue until the summer of 2020.

Main achievements  :

  • Data from its Omega Infrared Spectrometer have established the presence of minerals formed only after prolonged exposure of volcanic rocks to water.
  • The Marsis radar instrument has detected a vast ocean of liquid water beneath its surface
  • The high resolution stereo camera mapped the surface of the planet.

The next European mission to Mars, ExoMars 2020, is expected to reach its surface in 2021. NASA also plans to send another robot to Mars in February 2021.