Less than a week after its arrival in Martian orbit, India's Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft has captured a beautiful full-disk portrait of the Red Planet — marked by a dust storm as well as a pattern of light and dark that reminds some Indians of their home country.
"OMG, India map on Mars!" Saurabh Gupta wrote in a comment about the picture, which was posted to the Indian Space Research Organization's Facebook page on Monday. The picture was taken by the orbiter's Mars Color Camera from an altitude of more than 46,000 miles (74,500 kilometers), ISRO said.
The seeming outline of India is just left of center in the picture. The effect is due to the light and dark tones of the red Martian soil in that region — which includes Meridiani Planum, the plain where NASA's Opportunity rover is still at work more than 10 years after its landing. The dust storm can be seen toward the upper left, covering a wide swath of Mars' northern hemisphere.
To help you get your bearings, here's another picture of the Martian disk, pinpointing Meridiani Planum and Opportunity's landing ellipse.
The Mars Orbiter Mission, also known as MOM or Mangalyaan (Hindi for "Mars-Craft"), is due to study Martian weather as well as surface composition for the next six months or so. For more about the mission, as well as this particular picture, check out Emily Lakdawalla's posting on the Planetary Society's website.
"If the Mars Orbiter Mission does nothing else but return to us a variety of global images of Mars from different positions and phases, the mission will be a great success, as far as I'm concerned," Lakdawalla writes. Amen to that.