Up Above the Dust Clouds
Up Above the Dust Clouds
ESP_056010_1985  Science Theme: 
When much of Mars was enshrouded by a recent massive dust storm, HiRISE captured this clear view of the surface because of the target’s unique location.

Olympus Mons is the biggest volcano in the Solar System, reaching a height of nearly 25 kilometers, almost 3 times taller than Mount Everest on Earth. This view of the western flank of Olympus Mons shows the surface at an elevation of 21.3 kilometers, far above the swirling dust clouds. In this picture, we can see details of the flows that erupted over millions of years to form the enormous shield volcano.

A similar situation unfolded in the early days of Mars exploration, when NASA’s Mariner 9 spacecraft reached orbit around Mars in 1971 and was soon joined by two Soviet space probes, Mars 2 and Mars 3. Mars was blanketed at the time by a global dust storm that persisted for months and completely obscured the surface of the planet. As the storm ended and the dust began to settle out of the atmosphere, the tops of the giant volcanoes were the first portions of the surface to be seen.

Unfortunately the missions of the Soviet probes ended before the rest of the planet was clearly visible. Mariner 9 was able to wait out the dust storm and discover the surface features (such as the Valles Marineris canyon system, named after Mariner 9) that had previously been hidden beneath the dust clouds.

Written by: Paul Geissler  (22 September 2018)
Acquisition date
08 July 2018

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
262.1 km (162.9 miles)

Original image scale range
53.0 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~159 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
50 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
59°, with the Sun about 31° above the horizon

Solar longitude
207.6°, Northern Autumn

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  96°
Sub-solar azimuth:  339.1°
Black and white
map projected  non-map

IRB color
map projected  non-map

Merged IRB
map projected

Merged RGB
map projected

RGB color
non-map projected

Black and white
map-projected   (383MB)

IRB color
map-projected   (208MB)

Black and white
map-projected  (207MB)
non-map           (219MB)

IRB color
map projected  (103MB)
non-map           (226MB)

Merged IRB
map projected  (422MB)

Merged RGB
map-projected  (389MB)

RGB color
non map           (211MB)
B&W label
Color label
Merged IRB label
Merged RGB label
EDR products

IRB: infrared-red-blue
RGB: red-green-blue
About color products (PDF)

Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
For scale, use JPEG/JP2 black & white map-projected images

All of the images produced by HiRISE and accessible on this site are within the public domain: there are no restrictions on their usage by anyone in the public, including news or science organizations. We do ask for a credit line where possible:

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.