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News Release 7 of 20

July 5, 2001 09:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2001-24

Hubble Captures Best View of Mars Ever Obtained From Earth

A Hubble Heritage Release

July 5, 2001: Frosty white water ice clouds and swirling orange dust storms above a vivid rusty landscape reveal Mars as a dynamic planet in this sharpest view ever obtained by an Earth-based telescope. The Earth-orbiting Hubble telescope snapped this picture on June 26, when Mars was approximately 43 million miles (68 million km) from Earth -- its closest approach to our planet since 1988. Hubble can see details as small as 10 miles (16 km) across. Especially striking is the large amount of seasonal dust storm activity seen in this image. One large storm system is churning high above the northern polar cap [top of image], and a smaller dust storm cloud can be seen nearby. Another large dust storm is spilling out of the giant Hellas impact basin in the Southern Hemisphere [lower right].

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Q & A: Understanding the Discovery

  1. 1. Why does this picture represent Mars' closest approach to Earth in 13 years?

  2. Mars and Earth are like two cars on a racetrack as they journey around the Sun. Earth is on the inside track and travels faster than Mars, which is on the outside. When Earth laps Mars about every two years, the distance between the two planets varies due to Mars' highly elliptical orbit. The pair can be as close as 35 million miles or as far away as 63 million miles.

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Image Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Acknowledgment: J. Bell (Cornell U.), P. James (U. Toledo), M. Wolff (SSI), A. Lubenow (STScI), J. Neubert (MIT/Cornell)