NASA’s spacecraft took this black-and-white image of Mars from orbit on July 21, 2019. Astronomers from The University of Arizona have now singled it out for featuring what appears to be a large dandelion flower. The picture was snapped earlier this year by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) probe. NASA’s probe took the image while flying approximately 171.2 miles (275.4km) above the planet’s surface.
Unfortunately, the dandelion is not a rare alien plant thriving among the arid Martian desert.
Instead, it is a large impact crater with side run-offs simulating the petals of a flower.
Dr Veronica Bray from The University of Arizona said: “This observation was originally intended to image the ‘contact’ between two terrain types: rocky ridge separates the rugged left from the smoother right side.
“But during planning, a targeting specialist chose to extend the image further north – to the top – to capture a nearby crater.
“Extending images for some extra coverage is common practice when data volume allows.”
MRO’s black-and-white photo measures approximately 3.1 miles (5km) across.
The picture was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument that is operated by The University of Arizona.
Dr Bray said: “That extension has given us a bonus beauty.
“The steep walls of the crater are covered with slope streaks formed by material falling down towards the crater’s centre.
“There are so many in this case that the crater is reminiscent of a delicate ‘dandelion clock’.
“Looking closer, we can also that the exposed layering gives s more information about the subsurface of Mars.”
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter launched towards the Red Planet on August 12, 2005, and is operated by the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Quick facts about the Red Planet Mars:
1. A single day on the Red Planet lasts approximately 24 hours and 37 minutes.
2. A 100-pound person on Earth would only weigh about 38 pounds on the Red Planet.
3. Compared to Mars, the strength of gravity on Earth is 2.66 times stronger.
4. One year on Mars lasts a total of 687 Earth-days.
5. The Red Planet boasts not one but two oddly shaped moons of its own.