The first images of the Red Planet were taken on 14th and 15th July, 1965 when Mariner 4 successfully completed the first ever Mars flyby. Today it has become one of the most photographed planets in the solar system, thanks to multiple orbiters, landers and rovers that have been launched over the years. Since 2005, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured more than 50,000 brilliantly-detailed stereogram images of the Martian surface, which are best viewed with the help of special 3D glasses.
Scientists, however, will tell you that Mars’ cloudy and dusty atmosphere makes even the sharpest photos blurry and obscure. Strong winds and dust storms are a regular occurrence, and are responsible for further obfuscating the Red Planet’s landscape. According to Alfred McEwen, a planetary geologist at the University of Arizona and the primary investigator working on HiRISE:
The best way to see the planet’s surface would be to take a digital image and enhance it on your computer.
In an amazing new video, called “A Fictive Flight Above Real Mars”, Finland-based artist and filmmaker Jan Fröjdman has carefully stitched most of the imagery taken by the HiRISE camera, to create the impression of an uninterrupted, three-dimensional aerial view. Fröjdman started by selecting more than 33,000 photos that depict the terrain with the utmost clarity. Because the images were in grayscale, he had to color them digitally to match the hue of the Martian landscape.
For the spectacular fly-over effect, Fröjdman studied the individual anaglyphs, identifying unique features of the craters, mountains, gorges and canyons that he later used to sort the photographs. With the help of these reference points, he then stitched the images of the same region to produce a slowly-panning overview, as if it were captured by a low-flying aircraft.
Although there is software that locates matching reference points on stereogram images, Fröjdman did the entire thing manually in three months. As expected, some of the photos were more difficult and time-consuming to map out, especially those showcasing flat surfaces with relatively-less discernible topographical features. He added:
It was a very slow process. There might be software that does this work, but I haven’t found it… There are so many great scenes on Mars. The more work I do, the more I learn that this planet is amazing.
To know more about the creator and his works, head over to his Vimeo page.