Fascinating Martian features revealed in images beamed directly from Mars Express
Gif Credit: ESA
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Mars Express mission's landing on June 2, the European Space Agency (ESA) treated space enthusiasts with the first-ever Mars livestream. The agency has now shared a captivating GIF compiled from the images captured during the hour-long transmission.
The livestream, beamed directly from the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) aboard ESA's highly productive Martian orbiter, offered viewers a rare glimpse of the Red Planet in real-time. The images were taken approximately 50 seconds apart, providing an immersive experience of the planet's dynamic landscapes including the Arsia Mons volcano.
Unfortunately, a temporary interruption occurred during the live stream due to rain at ESA's ground station in Cebreros, Spain. Consequently, telemetry (data) from Mars Express was momentarily lost. Engineers are still working on getting those images back, the agency said.
Just before the connection is interrupted, a peculiar white feature is visible on the edge of Mars. This is not a physical feature on the planet but rather a flaw in a section of the sensor. This particular area increases the amount of light reaching the pixels, resulting in the notable appearance.
"The South Polar cap is apparent in these images, close to the polar night, while the Arsia Mons volcano is present on the left side of the planet. Orographic clouds are also common during this season, and form as the atmosphere flows up mountains and volcanic slopes," explains Jorge Hernández Bernal, part of the VMC team.
To achieve a one-hour continuous view of the planet, the Mars Express spacecraft's VMC required a precise alignment with Mars while maintaining uninterrupted contact with Earth via its antenna. Usually, observations are stored onboard the spacecraft and transmitted to Earth in batches when Mars Express establishes visibility with a ground station.
First Mars livestream: the movie.From polar ice caps to martian clouds, all made possible by a very unique orbital opportunity despite rain in Spain doing its best to spoil the view. It was the most real-time, motion view of Mars, ever.#MarsLIVE🔴👉 https://t.co/lU9wJUR0OS pic.twitter.com/EgOlCwGq2E— ESA Operations (@esaoperations) June 7, 2023
The Mars Express mission has proven to be a remarkable success since its arrival in Martian orbit on December 25, 2003. Alongside its numerous scientific achievements, the veteran orbiter has been instrumental in studying the Red Planet's surface, atmosphere, and subsurface, providing invaluable insights into the mysteries of our celestial neighbour.