July 10, 2001
It's hard to miss Earth's planetary sibling hanging low in the southern sky this summer (at least if you live in the northern hemisphere). The red planet Mars recently made its closest approach of the past 12 years, a mere 43 million miles away, and still dazzles viewers even as Earth speeds away from the encounter. The Hubble Space Telescope captured this best-ever Earth-based view of the planet in late June. Earth scientists with an urge to look up can use images from other planets to help understand the processes that shape these environments, a field called comparative planetology. In addition to the veil of water ice clouds seen above, two swirling dust storms are visible, one high above the northern polar cap, and the other spilling out of the Hellas impact basin on the lower right of the disk.
Image Credit: NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: J. Bell (Cornell U.), P. James (U. Toledo), M. Wolff (Space Science Institute), A. Lubenow (STScI), J. Neubert (MIT/Cornell)