A sea of dark dunes, sculpted by the wind into long lines, surrounds the northern polar cap covering an area as big as Texas.
In this false-color image, areas with cooler temperatures are recorded in bluer tints, while warmer features are depicted in yellows and oranges. Thus, the dark, sun-warmed dunes glow with a golden color. This image covers an area 30 kilometers (19 miles) wide.
Odyssey made its most famous discovery — evidence for copious water ice just below the dry surface of Mars — during its first few months, and it finished its radiation-safety check for future astronauts before the end of its prime mission in 2004.
This scene combines images taken during the period from December 2002 to November 2004 by the Thermal Emission Imaging System instrument on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter. It is part of a special set of images marking the occasion of Odyssey becoming the longest-working Mars spacecraft in history. The pictured location on Mars is 80.3 degrees north latitude, 172.1 degrees east longitude.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) was developed by Arizona State University, Tempe, in collaboration with Raytheon Santa Barbara Remote Sensing. The THEMIS investigation is led by Dr. Philip Christensen at Arizona State University. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, is the prime contractor for the Odyssey project, and developed and built the orbiter. Mission operations are conducted jointly from Lockheed Martin and from JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.