Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

February 7, 1996

If You Could Stand on Mars
Credit: NASA, Viking 1, USGS

Explanation: If you could stand on Mars - what would you see? Viking 1 robot landers answered this question in 1976 with pictures like the one shown above. The dark rocks, red soil, and green-tinged sky grace this rendition of a normal Martian afternoon. At the bottom corners of the picture are portions of Viking spacecraft. The red color of the rocks is caused by an abundance of iron in the soil. The Martian surface is covered by rocks, huge craters, fantastic canyons, and gigantic volcanoes that dwarf any on Earth. No life has been found, but some speculate that since not all spacecraft reaching Mars from Earth had been fully decontaminated, Earth born microbes might live there now.

Tomorrow's picture: Hyakutake: The Great Comet of 1996?

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (GMU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA).
NASA Technical Rep.: Sherri Calvo. Specific rights apply.
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