China Landing Site on Mars Looks Weirdly Blue, Special Glasses Reveal a Surprise

Tianwen-1 landing site on Mars 1 photo
Photo: University of Arizona
When one thinks of the planet Mars, the first thing that comes to mind is the color red. Granted, the place is not exactly that color, but it is wrapped in a blanket of reddish dust that earned it the nickname Red Planet. That’s why seeing so much blue in a photo from Mars is something of an event.
What you’re looking at is an image taken by an instrument called High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera (HiRISE). It is mounted on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), a satellite that has been circling Mars for more than a decade now.

The photo shows the site in Utopia Planitia where the lander of the Chinese Tianwen-1 mission touched down back in May. It was taken earlier this month, and it shows the lander that delivered the Zhurong rover on the planet.

It’s not the first photo of the place to surface over the past month. The Chinese themselves, who now also have a satellite in orbit, released one showing where the hardware ended up on the planet. The difference is that photo was black and white, whereas this one is particularly colorful.

But first, the elephant in the room. In the middle of the blue line is a piece of equipment, and that is the lander. Moving away from it to the north and south are the traces it left during landing, namely the dust that was blown away by the lander’s engines and, as the Chinese said a while back, the emptying of the remaining fuel.

As for why this image shows up in blue, it’s because of the stereoscopic 3D effect used by the HiRISE camera when taking the photo. In fact, says the University of Arizona, which released the image, using red/blue glasses when looking at it will reveal "gently rolling plains.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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