ESA Stereo Camera Captures Mars In 3D

Paris (France) - The European Space Agency (ESA) has published hundreds of 3D images of Mars, which give a spectacular impression of the terrain of the planet.

The series of digital terrain models (DTM) were created with a special camera, called Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). As the camera was flown over the Martian surface on board of Mars Express, the camera recorded a forward, backward and straight down view of the terrain, allowing ESA to generate 3D images with one simple fly-over. According to the organization, the images achieve a resolution of about one pixel per 10 meters (about 30 ft). In total, more than 400 high-resolution images have been made available for public viewing.

In contrast to bird's eye images or the data that was sent by the NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity, the ESA pictures allow researchers to get an impression of the terrain of large areas of the planet right away. "Understanding the topography of Mars is essential to understanding its geology," said Gerhard Neukum, lead researcher at the FU University in Berlin, Germany. The DTM can instantly tell researchers the slope of hillsides or the height of cliffs, the altitude and slope of lava flows or desert plains. "This data is essential for understanding how water or lava flowed across Mars," Neukum said.

The team plans to add more data to the DTMs to extend the surface coverage as Mars Express continues its mission until at least 2009 and HRSC continues its unique scrutiny of the planet.

The complete library of images generated by ESA can be viewed here.