Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Redirection, and Martian observations

I have a little piece on Samizdata pointing to these wonderful photographs of Mars that have been taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. What can I say. It is a privilege to be alive in a time when it is possible to see such things. There is quite literally nothing that would make me happier than seeing a human being walk on Mars in my lifetime. (Okay, there is one thing, which would be to walk on it myself. But that is of course quite unlikely, although I don't believe it to be utterly impossible. A lot will change in the next 50 years).

Now, notice that the bottom edge of the dark structure is a circular arc. Why is this? Well, it is because the crater like gap that is fairly easy to see when you realise this actually is an impact crater, the Hellas Basin. This was presumably caused by a collision between Mars and an asteroid at some time in the past. The bottom of the basin is seven kilometres deeper than the rim, and is often blurred in photographs of Mars because there is vastly more atmosphere at the bottom of the basin than the top. But not in this photograh, as conditions were perfect.

This is the photo of Mars you are going to see in books for the next half century, as conditions will never be better than this.

Also, I have just opened my window and looked out. Even in the middle of London on a not perfectly clear night, Mars is truly something in the east. It should appear much brighter still when it is directly overhead later. And I really must get out of London on the weekend to see it from somewhere where there is less light pollution.

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