The surface of Mars has been pictured in greater deal than ever before and we even spotted Beagle 2


The ill-fated Beagle 2 lander has been spotted on Mars using a revolutionary image stacking and matching technique which shows the planet's surface at a resolution up to five times greater than previously achieved.

The ancient lake beds discovered by Nasa's Curiosity rover, Nasa's Mer-A rover tracks and Home Plate's rocks can all be seen by the images revealed by scientists at University College London.

The team's "super-resolution" zoomed-in image of the Beagle 2´s believed location, by Professor Mark Sims and colleagues at the University of Leicester, provides strong supporting evidence that this is the site of the lander.

The proposed Beagle 2 Lander location (left) at the original 25cm resolution; zoom-up of the Super-Resolution restoration of proposed Lander location (centre) at 6.25cm; cartoon sketch of lander (courtesy of University of Leicester) superimposed on the right of the proposed Lander location at the same scale on the Super-Resolution restoration.
The proposed Beagle 2 Lander location, along with a cartoon sketch of the lander (right) at the same scale (UCL/University of Leicester/PA)

Researchers stacked and matched images taken from orbit, to reveal objects at the higher resolution.

Although a paper describing the technique, called Super-Resolution Restoration (SRR), was published in Planetary and Space Science in February, it has only recently been used to focus on specific objects on Mars.

It could now be used to hunt for other artefacts from past failed landings, as well as identify safe landing areas for future rover missions.

The technique also means scientists will be able to explore more terrain than is possible with a single rover.

The surface of Mars in never-seen-before detail (UCL/PA)
The surface of Mars in never-seen-before detail (UCL/PA)

Co-author Professor Jan-Peter Muller from the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, said: "We now have the equivalent of drone-eye vision anywhere on the surface of Mars where there are enough clear repeat pictures.

"It allows us to see objects in much sharper focus from orbit than ever before and the picture quality is comparable to that obtained from landers.

"As more pictures are collected, we will see increasing evidence of the kind we have only seen from the three successful rover missions to date. This will be a game-changer and the start of a new era in planetary exploration."

Mars can now be seen in five times greater detail than ever before (UCL/PA)
Mars can now be seen in five times greater detail than ever before (UCL/PA)

Even with the largest telescopes that can be launched into orbit, the level of detail that can be seen on the surface of planets is limited.

For cameras orbiting Earth and Mars, the resolution limit today is around 25cm (10in). But SRR allows objects as small as around 5cm (2in) to be seen from the same telescope.