Are these trees on Mars? (No…but they sure do look like trees!)


posted Sunday, November 29, 2015 at 10:17 AM EDT


Wake up with IR! Here's today's dose of Caffeine Priority

Well, you could have fooled me. I'm surprised I missed this image when it was initially released, as I generally visit the Astronomy Picture of the Day page first thing every morning over coffee. Sure enough, they are for sure not trees, and in fact they don't protrude at all as they cast no shadows.

But if not protrusions.... what then?

Images from the cosmos get ever more interesting the further we explore and the farther we can see with modern imaging technology. For the planet Mars, this has meant HiRISE, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment. And boy, what an experiment! Its imager can resolve objects on the Martian surface of roughly a third of a meter, and in 2006 it began capturing and beaming these high resolution images back to Earth.

So obviously this isn't at all new to the science community, but I'd simply never seen this particular image and wanted to share it with our readers who also may have yet to see it. And those tress? They're actually dark sand streaking down dunes near the Martian north pole!

From the HiRISE imager on the Mar Reconnaisance Orbiter, these "trees" are actually
dark sand streaks cascading down dunes near the north pole of Mars.

Traveling onboard the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter and courtesy of the folks at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, HiRISE has become known as "The People's Camera" as the general public has been involved in both the decisions on what to photograph (via HiWISH) and in being given virtually unlimited access to the images created by HiRISE. As of this writing there are now almost 40,000 (!) images for you to enjoy, study, and download, so you really have no more excuse for boredom because there are some truly stunning images, and the Martian landscape is so much more diverse than we'd ever imagined before HiRISE.

Another awesome image from HiRISE of beautiful Victoria Crater.

Thanks to NASA, the JPL at Cal. Tech and the University of Arizona LPL for these phenomenal images of Mars!


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A few of our recent Caffeine Priority posts, in case you missed them:

Epson SureColor P800 First Impressions

Who needs a telescope? Canon 5DS R + Tamron 150-600mm x 1.4

The drain game - EVF's and short battery life with the Sony RX1 R II

Why stick a $1000 lens on a $500 body? Well... lots of reasons!

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Caffeine Priority is a new series of short photo-tidbits to ease you into your day, and give us a chance to share a bit more of what life’s like here at IR. We're more like a group of friends testing and talking about cameras and lenses than the buttoned-down, big-corporation world that some of our photo-friends at other companies work in; hopefully these little snippets will share some of that. So... grab another coffee and join in the conversation with us down below!