UAE Hope probe sends home treasure trove of new Mars images

Space enthusiasts have welcomed the country's move to release data collected by the craft during its two-year odyssey

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A new treasure trove of Mars data containing hundreds of images captured by the UAE's Hope probe is set to give the world a greater understanding of the Red Planet.

The latest release of data sheds new light on some of the planet's key geographical features, such as Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system, and Valles Marineris, a canyon network that is 4,000-kilometres long and reaches depths of up to 7km.

Images gathered by Hope are also putting Mars's ice caps and clouds into sharper focus.

Enthusiasts believe the information shared by the UAE will help people around the world to engage with the topic of space travel.

A high-resolution camera, called the eXploration imager instrument, aboard the Hope probe is also allowing scientists to create stunning images of the planet.

They are processing the raw monochromatic images to highlight geographical features such as Olympus Mons, ice caps and clouds.

Images processed by the public can help scientists in their research, as it means multiple eyes and hands on the thousands of images a spacecraft sends back.

Pictures bring Mars to life

Stuart Atkinson, who is based in the UK, has been processing some of the images by the Hope probe.

“There are some very striking new views of familiar features in the new data set, like Olympus Mons and Valles Marineris, a canyon system,” he said.

“We never get bored of seeing these, and the Hope probe is sending back wonderful new views of them.

“It's great that this data is being released so freely and quickly - unlike the images taken by the Indian and Chinese missions. It definitely helps people connect with the mission, and see Mars as a real place, a real world, not just a red star in the sky.

“I love the views from the eXploration imager because they let me imagine how I'd see Mars if I was approaching it in a spacecraft as a future explorer.”

Since arriving into Mars's orbit on February 9, 2021, the spacecraft has beamed back images revealing the planet's dynamic weather system and atmospheric conditions.

Earlier this month, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre released 76.5 gigabytes of data captured between May 4 and August 31.

The latest addition brings the total amount of data released to 312 gigabytes. The mission aims to collect one terabyte in its two-year operation.

These observations are helping planetary scientists study how the planet lost its atmosphere and how the weather changes daily and seasonally.

Andrea Luck, based in Scotland, is another space image processor who has been sharing images of the planet captured by the Hope probe.

Some of his images have been widely shared on Twitter, including ones that show the planet’s northern ice cap and clouds in the Arsia Mons caldera – a large volcanic crater.

“The pictures coming from the Hope Probe’s eye, the eXploration imager, are simply incredible and very easy to access for the public,” Mr Luck said.

“If you like to process space photos, you’ll be amazed by the quality of each filter.

“It’s such a milestone to have so many international missions sharing their data with the entire planet - a very strong message for humanity, but also having the possibility to have more probes working at the same time on a target gives us the chance to compare data and verify any discovery.”

The data will also help Dr Dimitra Atri, a planetary scientist at the New York University in Abu Dhabi, who is creating an atlas to show how Mars changes with time, including daily and seasonal variations.

The Hope probe is circling the planet in an elliptical orbit that allows it to observe from much further away than any other spacecraft.

Its strategic position will help researchers such as Dr Atri to create a global image of the planet.

“The idea is to produce an atlas which will be of use both for the global scientific community and the public at large,” Dr Atri said.

“Having followed this mission for a very long time, it gives me great satisfaction to not only study the planet to solve research problems but to share it with the wider community.”

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre has promised to release a new set of data every three months.

Updated: January 25, 2022, 2:15 PM