This month, the red planet entered its new year, known as the year 36, and it has not long been passed by Earth in its orbit around the Sun. The distance between Earth and Mars is constantly changing due to their different speeds around the Sun, which is why the optimal launch opportunity for missions only presents itself once every 26 months when the planets are approaching more.

Since its launch in 2016 and its subsequent insertion into orbit around Mars, an instrument called the CaSSIS camera (Color and Stereo Surface Imaging System) which is an imaging system has been used to improve scientists’ knowledge of the planet’s surface. The camera travels with the European Space Agency (ESA) Exomars Trace Gas Orbiter, which studies methane and other noble gases in the Martian atmosphere. The technical goal of CaSSIS is to examine potential landing sites for future missions one of them being Esa’s Exomars mission to be launched in 2022. However, as part of her scientific endeavors, she also observed a variety of minerals, canyons, craters, and other geological features on the Martian surface.

The images, which were posted on also show frost deposits and dust storms. Professor Nicolas Thomas, from Oswestry in Shropshire, built the high-resolution instrument and is leading the project at the University of Bern, Switzerland. He has now taken over 20,000 images of Mars. There are things we already know, but we got a lot more information using CaSSIS.The ability of CaSSIS to see the sedimentary layers in certain areas is very interesting,” The other thing I love is that we have seen many remarkable traces of dust devil vortex on the surface of Mars. It stands out in a way that it never did when we used other instruments.”

Over the past few months, CaSSIS has taken up to 300 images per week. The instrument has strong color capture capability, which is why the team is combining their findings with those of NASA’s ultra-high-resolution imaging system, HiRISE, which flies on NASA’s US space mission. “Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter”.We are working a lot together right now in science,” said Professor Thomas. One area of ​​the Red Planet that CaSSIS has photographed is an area near Sisyphi Tholus, where freezing deposits have been documented. At high latitudes, ice and carbon dioxide freezing develop, which can be seen with cracks in the terrain. How does the CaSSIS work? The team selects specific targets from a database before capturing them.CaSSIS flies above the surface at around 3 km / s, so the images must be taken very quickly. The exposure time of the images is only 1.5 ms.

We get about 4.5m per pixel on the surface at a distance of about 400km so it’s kind of like looking at a bus in London from Liverpool says, Professor Thomas. The camera uses false color images to enrich its findings. The colors are different from what they appear to the human eye, but it helps the CaSSIS team find different minerals that reflect sunlight in different colors. We, therefore, decided not to use simple red, green, and blue colors in the camera system, but to optimize the colors for scientific purposes adds Professor Thomasine of the sites that the CaSSIS team examined is the Jezero crater.

This is where NASA’s Perseverance rover is due to land next week before it begins its research to find evidence of past life on the planet. According to Professor Thomas, the team typically has four to six opportunities per year to take pictures of sites like Jezero. Five days after Perseverance’s planned landing, CaSSIS hopes to be able to capture his parachute and heat shield thrown during the landing. We got clearance, so if the plane lands successfully on the surface, it’s okay and we should see its heat shield. However, if it lands upside down or in the wrong place, we will help find it, added Professor Thomas. The camera will continue to rotate in orbit and should help the European space mission ExoMars in its mission in 2022. Professor Thomas hopes the project will continue until at least 2025.