One of the national treasures of the United States comes from somewhere very far from the country's shores, and it's available not just to Americans, but to anyone on Earth. A sharp-eyed camera called HiRISE continuously circles Mars aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The archive of high-resolution data products sent home from HiRISE now includes 3,952,550 items--some 125 terabytes of information. In December alone, the HiRISE team at the University of Arizona added 42,985 products to the Planetary Data System, the official repository of scientific data from NASA planetary missions.
That trove includes thousands of pictures that reveal the face of Mars at a level of detail never seen before, with some images so sharp that if a person were standing on the surface of the planet you could see them waving. The landscapes are sometimes Earth-like, sometimes alien, often weird, and always wonderful.
Looking through the latest batch turns up some beauties. Here are just few. All of these were taken just a couple of months ago.
This crater in the southern highlands of Mars contains a lovely lattice of polygonal shapes, likely caused by ice near or below the surface.