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.

2004 January 18
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

A Close-Up of Martian Soil
Credit: Mars Exploration Rover Mission, JPL, NASA

Explanation: Make your background the closest image of Mars yet. The Spirit Rover currently rolling on Mars has taken the highest resolution image to date of another planet. The above black and white image spans only about 1.5 centimeters across, with details smaller than 1/10 of a millimeter visible. A microscope attached to the Spirit rover's instrument arm took the image. Up close, the Martian soil appears to planetary geologists to have clumping properties similar to cocoa powder. As more images come in and as the Spirit Rover continues to explore Mars, more information about the unusual floor of Gusev Crater are likely to emerge.

Tomorrow's picture: Flying Wild

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
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& Michigan Tech. U.