Breathtaking NASA Photo of Martian Crater Looks Like “Alien Footprint”

Zero Longitude Crater on Mars

The crater in the center of this HiRISE image defines where zero longitude is on Mars, like the Greenwich Observatory does for the Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona

Although the photo above isn’t new (it was captured by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on September 8, 2021), NASA just posted it to Instagram this week. The stunning image went viral, with some saying that it looked like an alien footprint.

You’re looking at 0° longitude on Mars—the Greenwich Observatory equivalent on the Red Planet. The Greenwich Observatory marks Earth’s Prime Meridian, which is a north-south line that defines where east meets west, and is used as the zero-reference line for astronomical observations.

Zooming out a bit, we see the Airy-0 crater is a wider context. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona

The larger crater that sits within this crater, called the Airy Crater, originally defined zero longitude for Mars, but as higher resolution photos became available, a smaller feature was needed. This crater, called Airy-0 (zero) was selected because it did not need to adjust existing maps.

These days, longitude on Mars is measured even more precisely using radio tracking of landers such as InSight, but everything is still defined to keep zero longitude centered on this crater.

The full view image shows more of the surrounds of the Airy-0 crater on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona

This image was captured by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The map is projected here at a scale of 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) per pixel.

For more recent image of stunning craters on Mars, see Martian Brain Freeze: Mars Express Reveals Utopia Planitia.


View Comments

  • Thank you for providing us the general public the opertunty to look at what is out there on Mars and to be given a chance to witness this ourselves (via) the work you and many others do.
    Once again thankyou for the opertunty to have look at what is out there.

  • looking at Mars gives us an idea of how Earth will end up when politicians are finished with us.

  • They are nonsense. There are no scale bars. We could be looking at anything. I hope the public is not so gullible. Were they digitally filtered too?

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