Hello Mars! You're looking lovely this week!
The Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, has released a handful of images of Mars taken by its Mars Orbiter Mission, or MOM, in the last few days, and while they are all beautiful, this one showing the orb of the rust-colored planet floating against the inky black of space is our favorite.
(A close second is a 3-D version of the planet just released on Twitter. You will need 3-D glasses to enjoy it, however.)
The image above was taken on Sunday, just four days after the spacecraft completed its nine-month journey to the Red Planet.
That smudgy looking stuff at the top left of the image is a regional dust storm kicking around Mars' northern hemisphere. To give you a sense of scale, the round crater just slightly below the center of the image and to the right is about 285 miles wide.
Dust storms are not unusual on Mars. In fact, a new study published Tuesday in Nature Communications found that despite the planet's super thin atmosphere, daily winds strong enough to move sand around do blow on Mars.
The orbiter began its journey to the Red Planet on Nov. 5, 2013. It is equipped with five instruments to help scientists study the surface and atmosphere of Mars, especially the amount of methane in the Martian atmosphere. Scientists care about methane on Mars because its presence would be an indicator of life on the planet.
On Sept. 24, MOM completed a series of engine firings, allowing it to successfully enter into its highly elliptical orbit that will take it from 260 miles away from the planet to nearly 50,000 miles away. The ISRO says it will take the orbiter exactly 72 hours, 51 minutes and 51 seconds to complete a full turn around Mars.
We have every reason to hope that India's Mars orbiter will continue to send back more enticing images of Mars soon. After all, it has only been snapping pictures around its new home for less than a week, and so far, they've been very, very good.