mars from above; space photography by michael benson

All the (well deserved) hype about the amazing Curiosity project lately has reincarnated my love for space photography, and especially planetary landscapes. These shots weren’t taken by Curiosity, however, but almost three years earlier by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, on January 27th 2010.

The original photographs, courtesy of NASA, were taken at approximately 200 miles above the surface of Mars, and they were all originally black and white. Afterwards, multimedia artistMichael Benson gathered the raw data, of which he created high resolution images, and digitally added color to them. He also created large format prints of these photos, which he has shown in exhibitions and books. His next book Planetfall: New Solar System Visions was just published at the beginning of this month. It features beautiful large format color photographs created from various deep-space missions by NASA and the European Space Agency, digitally retouched and colored by Benson.

These amazing vertical panorama shots show us the beautiful and strange landscapes of our red neighbor planet. It brings us closer and gives us a more detailed view than most of the photos we’ve seen from that part of our solar system. What makes it even more interesting are those weird looking black spidery things at the bottom of the first photo. They don’t look like anything anyone’s ever seen before. Nobody really knows what they are, but they have been regularly captured by NASA’s cameras since 1998. Every spring (by the Martian calendar, that is) they appear on sand dunes like the ones in that photo, sometimes even over night. And then when winter comes, they disappear. Spooky? Maybe. Cool photography? Definitely.

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