In the past fortnight, the VMC camera on Mars Express has delivered some of the best images ever, showing the Martian surface in excellent detail, colour and contrast.
If you’re a VMCer (and, if you’re reading this, you are!) and you’ve been following the live (well, as live as possible) frequent updates in Twitter, you’ve been treated to some excellent images of the north polar ice cap, Valles Marineris, the Tharsis Montes region and some of the craters where rovers rove.
Many of the images in August and September so far were acquired from an altitude above the surface of just 3000-5000 km, giving even the puny VMC webcam a chance to use its simple optics to get a great ‘close-up’ view of what’s passing by below.
In fact, these are some of the closest-ever images that VMC has been able to grab, and were acquired approximately half-way between periares and apoares – the closest and furthest points to the surface in the highly elliptical MEX orbit.
And they contrast (nicely!) with the typical VMC images we’ve been used to seeing for the past near-decade, which were all taken at or very close to apoares at about 10 000km. [More at link]