Hubble telescope captures Mars image on eve of opposition phenomenon

NASA has revealed a new image of Mars taken by the Hubble Space Telescope ahead of May 30, when Mars will be the closest it has been to Earth in 11 years. The Mars portrait features the Hellas Planitia basin, a 3.5-billion-year-old asteroid crater.

Captured by the Hubble telescope on May 12, the snapshot of Mars shows the Red Planet’s “vivid, rust-colored landscape” from a distance of 50 million miles from Earth, NASA said, and highlights features of Mars as small as 20 to 30 miles across.

The portrait includes Syrtis Major Planitia, “an ancient, inactive shield volcano” and Arabia Terra, “a vast upland region in northern Mars that covers about 2,800 miles,” according to NASA.

Below Syrtis Major, Hellas Planitia can be seen. The basin is around 1,100 miles across and almost five miles deep following an asteroid collision with Mars around 3.5 billion years ago.

The Hubble observation of Mars was taken just before the Mars opposition on May 22, when the sun and Mars ended up on precisely opposite ends of Earth. During a period of opposition, Mars “is especially photogenic,” NASA said, given it is fully illuminated by the sun from the perspective of Earth.

On May 30, Mars and Earth will be 46.8 million miles away, the closest the two planets have been in 11 years.