two side-by-side images of martian landscape from above, one blurry

February 09, 2018

These two frames were taken of the same place on Mars by the same orbiting camera before (left) and after some images from the camera began showing unexpected blur.

The images are from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. They show a patch of ground about 500 feet or 150 meters wide in Gusev Crater. The one on the left, from HiRISE observation ESP_045173_1645, was taken March 16, 2016. The one on the right was taken Jan. 9, 2018. Gusev Crater, at 15 degrees south latitude and 176 degrees east longitude, is the landing site of NASA's Spirit Mars rover in 2004 and a candidate landing site for a rover to be launched in 2020. HiRISE images provide important information for evaluating potential landing sites. The smallest boulders with measurable diameters in the left image are about 3 feet (90 centimeters) wide. In the blurred image, the smallest measurable are about double that width.

As of early 2018, most full-resolution images from HiRISE are not blurred, and the cause of the blur is still under investigation. Even before blurred images were first seen, in 2017, observations with HiRISE commonly used a technique that covers more ground area at half the resolution. This shows features smaller than can be distinguished with any other camera orbiting Mars, and little blurring has appeared in these images.

The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.


NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona


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