NASA releases spectacular image of blue dunes on Mars to mark 20 years of Odyssey

To mark 20 years of its spacecraft Mars Odyssey, NASA released an image showing dunes that surround the Red Planet’s northern polar cap.


  • The dunes captured by NASA cover an area as big as the American state of Texas
  • THEMIS instrument on the Mars Odyssey orbiter captured the shots, said NASA
  • Odyssey entered Mars’ orbit on October 24, 2001 following its launch on April 7 of the same year

NASA recently released a rare image of Mars to mark the 20th anniversary of Odyssey, the longest-working Mars spacecraft in history. The false-colour image shows dunes that surround Mars’ northern polar cap.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), these dunes cover an area as big as the American state of Texas.

Titled ‘Blue Dunes of Red Planet’, the image combines shots captured between December 2002 and November 2004. These shots were captured by the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) instrument on the Odyssey orbiter which has sent back more than 1 million images since it began circling Mars.

In the image, one can see two types of dunes. The first set which is somewhat yellow and orange in colour signifies warmer climates while the pale bale set shows colder climates on Mars.

Two types of dunes on Mars seen in the image clicked by NASA (Photo Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

The dark, sun-warmed dunes glow with a golden colour, NASA said in a press release adding that the image covers an area almost 30 kilometres wide.

According to the space agency, the pictured location on Mars is 80.3 degrees north latitude, 172.1 degrees east longitude.

Know about Mars Odyssey

Launched on April 7, 2001, NASA’s Mars Odyssey was sent to the Red Planet to map its composition. Over the last two decades, the Mars Odyssey has uncovered troves of water ice, which paved the way for safer landings.

Project Scientist Jeffrey Plaut says, “Before Odyssey, we didn’t know where this water was stored on the plane.”

Plaut heads NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which leads the Mars Odyssey mission.

Scientists have been able to use Odyssey data to determine what physical materials exist on Mars. In fact, this steady stream of data has even enabled NASA to map craters on the Red Planet.

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