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Red Planet Trek

Purpose:  This site will display and describe pictures taken by amateurs through the MOC Public Target Request Program, in which regular Americans suggested areas for the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) to photograph.  Also, a huge number of links are listed.  I hope everything you want to know about Mars is just a click or two away.  This site can serve as a starting point for all Mars research by students, teachers, and media members, as well as more serious investigators.

Highlights of the Public Images Program  gives image numbers for the best of the many hundreds of photos suggested by amateurs.

Links takes you to a listing of more than 100 links that supply information about Mars.

Article: Names of Mars Features

Article: Geology of Arabia

About the pictures

Unless Otherwise stated, all MGS images are from NASA/JPL/Malin SpaceScience Systems

A major goal of this web site is to display and comment on some of the Public Images of Mars.  These images were suggested by amateurs.  Each image is between 1.5--3.1 Km wide with resolutions between 1.5--4.5 meters/pixel.  Shown below are just a few of the hundreds of  Public images that have been taken.  These images are just pieces of whole pictures.  The "X" on the sketch map shows the approximate location of the picture.  The sketch shows the major features of the hemisphere of Mars.  Sometimes a picture of a hemisphere of Mars is used to show where the image originates. The MOC number is the number of the original image.

Mars Global Suveyor was launched in 1996, finished its primary mission in 2001, and started to take

pictures suggested by the public in 2003. After taking more than 240,000 images (over 1000 from the public), it was lost in November 2006. The satellite orbited Mars at an average altitude of 378 km (236 miles).

You can view the original, larger, clearer images by writing down the MOC #, then finding it on www.msss.com/mars_images/moc/publicresults/  Each of these narrow angle (high resolution) images has a context image associated with it that shows the overall setting of the region. 

Picture of a possible volcanic vent.

MOC  S11-00617

Picture of layers being exposed in pits.

MOC  S05-00558

To see more images of craters click here.

Because the Mars Global Surveyor Mission has been so successful, NASA decided to permit amateurs to request that certain areas to be imaged.  Each month about 10-50 pictures suggested by amateurs were taken  by the Mars Orbitital Camera (MOC) that is on board  the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) orbiting Mars.  It is very exciting to receive these pictures.

Picture of mesa and butte formations.

The black oval around a butte would be the path for future runners in a 5 K race on Mars.  That is the distance around the oval is about 5 Km or 3.1 miles--a popular race distance of joggers.  This area is so pretty that it could be a future park like Monument Valley in Utah.

To see more images of mesas and buttes click here.

Picture of a gully on a hill.

MOC  S05-00188

This picture shows a large gully on the southern side of a hill.  When I suggested this area to be photographed, I was pleasently surprized because I expected to only see layers on the hill.
Finding a gully on a hill is rare.  Most of the gullies found on Mars are located on crater or valley walls.  After examining all the Captioned MOC Images of gullies, I found only one that was on a hill; it was in Galle Crater, the Happy Face Crater.

Although the exact cause of gullies is still being debated by scientists, most ideas involve the flow of water.  As such, gullies may be prime targets for the search for life. Many consider gullies to be the most important discovery of the entire mission.

I wonder if gullies on isolated hills represent gully formation from an earlier age.  Hills may be all that is left of a layer that once covered a large area.

Hi Resolution

The image to the right is of the gully taken

with the highest resolution possible with the Mars

Global Surveyor. Here each pixel is 1.5 meters.

Besides wanting to see more detail, I wanted to

look for any changes. There does not appear to

be any changes, but NASA scientists did find

fresh flows on some gulies.

To see more images of gullies click here.


Mars reference

With the next series of images, we will enlarge on a part of the

Noctis Labyrinthus (labled Noctis) that lies next to the great Grand Canyon of Mars, the

Vallis Marineris. Some of the clouds in the picture have formed around

giant volcanoes. Olympus Mons is the tallest volcano in the Solar System.

The image on the right was produced by Malin Space Systems from

Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) images. The arrow points to the area

that I suggested MGS image.

Noctis Labyrinthus
context view

The rectangle shows what part was images by MGS.

This image is a context image. A context image is taken with

each narrow angle image. The image number means it was the

2389 picture taken in the S18 phase of the mission (June of 2006).

layers in wall

The smallest objects visible in the image on the right would be about

size of a house. The many horizontal layers in the wall were

probably formed by a volcano or possibly under an ancient sea.

To see more images of walls and cliffs

click here.

In the image to the right, I wanted to find out why part of the crater

floor was dark. I chose an image field that contained part of the dark

toned surface and part of the light. The image below shows the


dark dunes
dark dune

We can easily see that the dark area is caused by dark

sand dunes. These are quite common on Mars. Most of

the surface of Mars is composed of dark volcanic rock,

called basalt. Sometimes this rock is broken up into

sand-sized fragments which can be formed into dunes.

To see more images of dunes click here.

The image to the right would give one an ambitious hike. If you walked from left to right, you would be going up and down a number of steep slopes. The land here is shaped into hollows foming large canyons.

To see more images of what it is like walking on Mars click here.

dust devil trac

The picture to the left shows a field of dust devil tracks. In its nineyears of taking pictures, MGS found that many changes in the surfaceappearence of Mars were due to the effectsof giant dust devils. Early telescopic observations of Mars led many astronomers to believe that changes in the surfacewere due to darkening from the seasonal growth of vegetation.

Great dust storms frequently coat the planet with a thin, bright dust. Dust devils thenremove the dust to leave the dark rock surface visible. From time to time dustdevils have traveled over the Mars Rovers on the surface and cleaned the solar panels in the process.



Click here to see more pictures.

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Last updated February 2008