Anyone connected by Internet can now see planet Mars better than at any time in history, through the eye of HiRISE, the most powerful camera ever to orbit another planet.

A University of Arizona-based team that runs the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has just released more than 1,200 Mars images to the Planetary Data System, the U.S. space agency’s mission data archive.

Not only has the team released 1.7 Terabytes of HiRISE data — the largest single dataset ever delivered to NASA’s space mission data library — but also a user-friendly way for the public to easily see HiRISE images.

Thanks to tools available on HiRISE’s new Web page, any Internet user can quickly pull up and explore the same remarkable images that both thrill and confound scientists.

“These images must contain hundreds of important discoveries about Mars,” HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen of UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory said. “We just need time to realize what they are.”

The HiRISE camera takes images of 3.5-mile-wide (6 km) swaths as the orbiter flies at about 7,800 mph between 155 and 196 miles (250 to 316 km) above Mars’ surface. For at least the next 18 months, HiRISE will collect thousands of color, black-and-white and stereo images of the Martian surface, resolving features as small as 40 inches across, covering about one percent of the planet.

[Lori Stiles]

[tags]mars, martian, red planet, nasa[/tags]