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The 'Face on Mars'

Shortly after midnight Sunday morning (5 April 1998 12:39 AM PST), the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) on the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft successfully acquired a high resolution image of the 'Face on Mars' feature in the Cydonia region. The image was transmitted to Earth on Sunday, and retrieved from the mission computer data base Monday morning (6 April 1998). The image was processed at the Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) facility 9:15 AM and the raw image immediately transferred to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for release to the Internet. The images shown here were subsequently processed at MSSS.

The picture was acquired 375 seconds after the spacecraft's 220th close approach to Mars. At that time, the 'Face', located at approximately 40.8° N, 9.6° W, was 275 miles (444 km) from the spacecraft. The 'morning' sun was 25° above the horizon. The picture has a resolution of 14.1 feet (4.3 meters) per pixel, making it ten times higher resolution than the best previous image of the feature, which was taken by the Viking Mission in the mid-1970's. The full image covers an area 2.7 miles (4.4 km) wide and 25.7 miles (41.5 km) long.

In this comparison, the best Viking image has been enlarged to 3.3 times its original resolution, and the MOC image has been decreased by a similar 3.3 times, creating images of roughly the same size. In addition, the MOC images have been geometrically transformed to a more overhead projection (different from the mercator map projection of PIA01440 & 1441) for ease of comparison with the Viking image. The left image is a portion of Viking Orbiter 1 frame 070A13, the middle image is a portion of MOC frame shown normally, and the right image is the same MOC frame but with the brightness inverted to simulate the approximate lighting conditions of the Viking image.

Photo Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems



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