What do YOU want to see on Mars?

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Jan. 21 2010 7:38 AM

What do YOU want to see on Mars?

I make no bones about the fact that I love the HiRISE camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. With its 50 centimeter (18 inch) resolution, it's returned one astonishing picture after another. I've picked several for my annual Top Ten Astronomy Pictures, too.

And now NASA has announced something incredibly cool: they are allowing the public to choose locations for HiRISE to image! It's easy enough. Just go to their website, register, and then you can look at other suggested spots or suggest one yourself.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death from the Skies!  

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I suggested one myself: re-imaging a black pit on Mars that I featured in my Top Ten pictures of 2007:


This is a rimless pit, basically a cavern on Mars. I suggested they image it again at a different time of day, yielding three-dimensional information about it. The change in the Sun angle will allow scientists to see how steeply it's sloped, where the rocks sit, and also possibly illuminate a different part of the pit walls. It would be very interesting to see if any of the rocks have changed as well, maybe settling downslope since the prior image was taken.

I hope they pick mine, but go there and pick your own. You can search the extensive (11,000+ images and counting) HiRISE archive for interesting things, or poke around the web. And yes, the Face has already been suggested though for some reason the person suggesting it didn't mention the Face, and just said it was an erosional feature of interest. I think that's pretty funny. Actually, lots of suggestion have been submitted for that region in Cydonia, unsurprisingly!

But there's a lot of surface to map on Mars, so give it a shot. And if they do wind up picking yours, let me know! That'll be worth a followup post.