The recent launch of Mars Perseverance Rover has caught the attention of the whole world, but it didn't overshadow the legendary spacecraft that left the Earth 15 years ago.
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been discovering, monitoring, and taking pictures of Mars since August 12, 2005, when it first arrived on the Red Planet.
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The orbiter has been on duty to measure temperatures of Mars' atmosphere, which is as 1% dense as the Earth's, check underground with its radar and find minerals on the surface. It's perfectly normal not to be aware of the duties, as the spacecraft provides us with astonishing images.
And for the 15th year anniversary of the spacecraft currently on Mars, NASA shared some of the images out of 6,882,204 in total, as a courtesy.
One orbiter, three cameras, millions of artwork
MRO introduced the world with its great works of art thanks to its three cameras: The Mars Color Imager (MARCI), The Context Camera (CTX) and High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), the one that sends the most impressive touches.
Two images differentiate in dates from May 28 to July 1 in 2018. One of the rare dust storms called "planet-encircling dust event" covered the whole planet and left Opportunity, one of NASA's rovers, uncontacted, buried in the dust. The photo is taken by MARCI.
If you think avalanches are unique to Earth, you're wrong. Taken by Hi-RISE on May 29, 2019, this image shows the layers at Mars' north pole. What is surprising here is that the ice, on a Planet that is -60 degrees Celcius (-80 degrees Fahrenheit) on average, gets vaporized as the temperature increases, causing a break loose of the ice blocks and dust.
"Before MRO, it wasn't clear what on Mars really changed, if anything. We thought the atmosphere was so thin that there was almost no sand motion and most dune movements happened in the ancient past," Leslie Tamppari, MRO's deputy project scientist explained.
Turns out the Red Planet was a windy one along with its being cold. Dunes accumulated and ripples formed were due to grains brought by the wind. Although the false color effect was used to have some more details on the image, it is in fact attractive to perceive it as a blue desert.
Being one of Mars' two moons, Phobos is named after the Greek god of fear. And yes it is actually as small as it was able to fit in the frame on a close-range. Phobos is about 13 miles (21 kilometers) overall. The image was captured by HiRISE with some uncertainty. Scientists are still not sure if it's an asteroid or a piece of Mars that left the mainland way before.
This crater is approximately 100 feet (30 meters) wide and bears the traces of an explicit explosion. The image was taken by HiRISE on November 19, 2013.
MRO didn't miss the chance to capture our beautiful Earth and the Moon while floating above Mars. This was shot by HiRISE on the 20th of November, 2016.
This giant flying worm-like formation is a pile of dust roaming above the planet. It was captured from 185 miles (297 kilometers) and presumably as tall as 0.49 miles (800 meters).
NASA released the rest of the images for the public and scientists per request. Thanks to these three cameras on MRO, which is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, the world had a chance to see some close-up shots of its neighbor, the Red Planet.