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The first pictures from Western University's Mars imaging campaign have arrived, and you can see them first, right here!

MRO goes Canadian: Sometimes if you smile at Mars, it smiles right back

Find Your Forecast
    Scott Sutherland
    Meteorologist/Science Writer

    Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 5:50 PM - With satellites in orbit and rovers on the ground, we're fed a near constant stream of amazing images from Mars. However, what if you had a chance to take over one of those missions for a day, a week, or even two weeks? What would you do with that time, where would you point the cameras and scientific instruments, and what could you potentially learn from the experience?

    Well, a team from Western University's Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration are answering those very questions this week and next, as they induct NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as an honorary Canadian for a two-week imaging tour of the Red Planet.

    Dr. Livio Tornabene, who has worked with the MRO mission's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) team, is leading a group of three students - PhD candidate Eric Pilles, grad student Ryan Hopkins and undergraduate Kayle Hansen - to collect roughly 150 images of the Martian surface. They have been targeting specific locations of interest, for their own research, for simple interest's sake, and from a public database of suggestions (known as HiWish).

    "It's mind-blowing to realize that when the team, myself included, first look at the images, we are likely the first people on Earth to lay eyes upon a portion of the Martian surface that may have not been imaged before at such high resolution," Tornabene, an adjunct research professor at Western’s Faculty of Science and a member of the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX), said in a CPSX press release on Tuesday.

    RELATED: Western University team takes the reins on NASA orbiter to image Mars

    With their first images beaming in from 277 million kilometres away, here's some of what they've gathered so far (click the images to enlarge them!), with captions from the team's Facebook page:

    Arabia Terra


    This image, the very first of cycle 211, is approximately 1.5x3km. It shows a sample of eroded Martian terrain in Arabia Terra. At one time this was a flat, smooth terrain, but over time it has been eroded - most likely by the wind - forming depressed, low-lying areas featuring small dunes resembling waves in the ocean; whereas, in other areas there are small flat-top hills forming out of rock that is more resistant to erosion than the surrounding materials.


    South Pole Residual Cap (SPRC) - If you smile at Mars, sometimes it smiles back


    This image represents one of many monitoring sites at the South Pole Residual Cap (SPRC). Images are taken throughout the Martian year to document changes in CO2 ice coverage. This cropped full-resolution HiRISE image shows a popular spot where one of the features resembles a smiley face approximately 500m across.


    Gully monitoring – Frosty slopes in late spring


    This image, approximately 1.5x3km, shows frosted gullies on a south-facing slope within a crater. At this time of year only south-facing slopes retain the frost, whereas the north-facing slopes have melted. Gullies are not the only active geologic process visible here. A small crater is visible at the bottom of the slope.


    NEXT PAGE: If you're looking for some colour, these next images won't disappoint.

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