Image of HiRISE instrument


The High Resolution Imaging Experiment is known as HIRISE. The big and powerful HIRISE camera takes pictures that cover vast areas of Martian terrain while being able to see features as small as a kitchen table.

Tech Specs

Main Job To study active surface processes and landscape evolution.
Location On the Nadir side of the spacecraft looking down at Mars.
Mass ~143 pounds (65 kg), including thermal control system, cables, etc
Power 60 Watts
Size ~5.2 feet (1.6 meters) long by ~2.9 feet (0.9 meter) diameter
Data Return Can acquire images containing up to 28 Gb (gigabits) of data in as little as 6 seconds
Color Quality 14 electronic detectors, each covered by a filter in one of three wavelength bands: 400 to 600 nanometers (blue-green), 550 to 850 nanometers (red), or 800 to 1000 nanometers (near infrared), producing color images in the central portion of the field of view.
Image Size Pixel size in images taken from an altitude of 186 miles (300 kilometers) is about 12 inches (30 centimeters) across (about basketball-size). Overall image size is a swath width of 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) by a programmable image length of up to 37 miles (60 kilometers).
Image Resolution Smallest resolvable features in the images are about 3 feet (~1 meter) across (features as small as a kitchen table in images covering swaths of Mars' surface 3.7 miles, or 6 km wide).
Focal Length ~40 feet (12 meters)
Focal Ratio and Field of View f/24, yielding an IFOV of 1 x 1 μrad and a telescope FOV of 1.14 degrees x 0.18 degrees

High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment

HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) has photographed hundreds of targeted swaths of Mars' surface in unprecedented detail.

The camera operates in visible wavelengths, the same as human eyes, but with a telescopic lens that produces images at resolutions never before seen in planetary exploration missions. These high-resolution images enable scientists to distinguish 1-meter-size (about 3-foot-size) objects on Mars and to study the morphology (surface structure) in a much more comprehensive manner than ever before.

HiRISE also makes observations at near-infrared wavelengths to obtain information on the mineral groups present. From an altitude that varies from 200 to 400 kilometers (about 125 to 250 miles) above Mars, HiRISE acquires surface images containing individual, basketball-size (30 to 60 centimeters, or 1 to 2 feet wide) pixel elements, allowing surface features 4 to 8 feet across to be resolved. These new, high-resolution images are providing unprecedented views of layered materials, gullies, channels, and other science targets, in addition to characterizing possible future landing sites.

Areas for close-up HiRISE imaging are selected on the basis of data returned from Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, and regional surveys conducted by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's own instruments.

The Principal Investigator (lead scientist) for HiRISE is Alfred McEwen from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona.

Visit the instrument site: HiRISE Instrument Site