Mars is a crazy place. In recent years we’ve discovered some of the strangest things on the Red Planet: ice spiders, Swiss cheese terrain, and perfectly spiral-shaped lava tubes.
And the more we explore our near planetary neighbor, the weirder the things we find get. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling Mars since 2006, provides the clearest and highest-resolution images of the planet’s surface. Looking through the image archive of its HiRISE camera, which can resolve things about a meter wide on the ground, reveals a vast supply of strange and wonderful things.
Here we share some of the orbiter’s most recent weird sightings from the last few months. The images provide incredible scientific insights into Mars. But, perhaps just as important, they are beautiful, fascinating, and reflective of the alien world that sits not too far from our own.
Just a note on the colors in these images: HiRISE has cameras that see in slightly different wavelengths than our own eyes. Many of the photos it produces are in “false color,” meaning the different wavelengths have been assigned colors for purposes of clarity or to highlight an important feature. There are no actual turquoise dunes on Mars. But the false color pictures do allow scientists to differentiate various textures and materials on Mars.