"There is a vast and cool silence on Mars, sometimes broken by the sound of a boulder perched at the rim of an ancient impact crater — formed long before the Code of Hammurabi or Plato's tale of Atlantis — giving way to inexorable gravity, finally rolling down a slope before coming to a stop and continuing its vigil. Somewhere at the Martian poles, warmed by weak but still potent heat from the sun, ice cracks on a cliff, sending material plummeting below, raising dust clouds that linger and slowly disappear. The wind works relentlessly, yes, its echo everywhere across sculpted rocks, but mostly, this is a quiet world."
So begins what the authors of a new book featuring stunning images from the UA-led HiRISE camera project call an armchair exploration of the Red Planet. Weighing in at nearly eight pounds, "Mars: The Pristine Beauty of the Red Planet" features close to 200 carefully selected photographs taken by the University of Arizona-led HiRISE camera, which has been orbiting Mars on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter since 2006.
The result is a visual journey across the surface of Mars taken by what the HiRISE team calls "the people's camera at Mars." With artistic glimpses at actively eroding slopes, impact craters, strange polar landscapes, avalanches and even spectacular pictures capturing the Phoenix Lander and the Curiosity Rover descending on their parachutes, the reader gets to see what researchers are seeing.
Arranged into chapters that guide the reader/viewer from familiar features such as sand dunes to more alien landscapes one cannot glimpse on our own planet, the photos and accompanying captions amount to 425 pages compiled by UA HiRISE scientists. Here is a selection of photos highlighting the alien beauty of the Red Planet.