NASA has released a composite of Mars snaps that all share the same feature.
Released last week, the patchwork consists of four bird’s-eye view images snapped from above the red planet by an orbiting spacecraft.
They all share one thing: Each photo features a view of morning frost on the frigid planet’s surface.
“Martian surface frost, made up largely of carbon dioxide, appears blueish-white in these images,” Nasa wrote on May 5.
It added that the snaps were taken by the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera aboard its Odyssey orbiter.
Launched in 2001, Odyssey is Nasa’s longest-lived Mars mission.
It acts as a communications relay for rovers and landers on Mars including the Mars Exploration Rovers “Spirit” and “Opportunity.”
The spacecraft is also capable of taking pictures of Mars using THEMIS, an infrared, temperature-sensitive camera.
“THEMIS takes images in both visible light perceptible to the human eye and heat-sensitive infrared,” Nasa said.
This allows it to capture features that other orbiting cameras might miss, including icy deposits on the Martian surface.
“Odyssey’s morning orbit produces spectacular pictures,” said Sylvain Piqueux of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
“We can see the long shadows of sunrise as they stretch across the surface.”
Most of the frost on Mars evaporates as the planet heats up during the Martian sunrise.
Researchers hypothesise that the frost visible in THEMIS images is “dirty frost” – dry ice frost mixed with fine grains of dust.
That dust obscures it in visible light but not in infrared images.
Researchers discussed the find a paper published last month in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
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