Science & Environment

Hubble takes super-snap of Mars

Mars Image copyright NASA/ESA

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has produced another of its stunning portraits of Mars.

The Red Planet and Earth are nearing what is called opposition, when their orbits line them up with the Sun - and put them very close to each other.

This occurs every 780 days or so, and enables the super-sharp HST to see surface details that are just 30km across.

Hubble has imaged Mars at this time routinely since its launch in 1990.

Its back catalogue reveals the ever shifting character of our near neighbour - the Red Planet's wispy clouds, its globe-encircling dust storms, and its evolving ice caps.

The actual moment of opposition is 22 May at 11:10 GMT; the two planets' closest approach follows just a few days later on 30 May. There will be just 75 million km between the two planets on that day.

Countless astronomers with smaller telescopes than Hubble will be grabbing the chance to view Mars in the week ahead. The planetary alignment means the Red Planet's disc, as well as being larger in the sky than usual, is also fully illuminated.

Image copyright NASA/ESA

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