Mars is Where the Heart Is

Captioned Image Release No. MSSS-158 — 14 February 2011


NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

Happy St. Valentine's Day from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) Context Camera (CTX) team!

This picture of a heart-shaped feature in Arabia Terra was taken on 23 May 2010 by the CTX camera on the MRO spacecraft. A small impact crater near the tip of the heart is responsible for the formation of the bright, heart-shaped feature. When the impact occurred, darker material on the surface was blown away, and brighter material beneath it was revealed. Some of this brighter material appears to have flowed further downslope to form the heart shape, as the small impact occurred on the ejecta blanket of a much larger impact crater. The heart-shaped feature is about 1 km long and is centered at 21.9°N, 12.7°W. This feature is visible in a much lower resolution Viking 1 image acquired in January 1977.

These pictures are subframes of the full CTX image B21_017910_2002_XI_20N012W, taken just at the start of northern summer on Mars. North is to the right, and illumination is from the upper right. The CTX image has been colorized using a look-up table based on MOC red and blue wide angle images that maps albedo to color.

Over the past 12 years, Malin Space Science Systems has featured other heart-shaped martian landforms on Valentine's Day in images acquired by MRO CTX and the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC). These previous examples can be viewed by clicking on the following links:



To cite the image(s) and caption information in a paper or report:

Malin, M. C., M. R. Kennedy, and T. N. Harrison (2011), Mars Is Where the Heart Is, Malin Space Science Systems Captioned Image Release, MSSS-158,

The image(s) and caption are value-added products. MSSS personnel processed the images and wrote the caption information. While the images are in the Public Domain, NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS requests that you credit the source of the image(s). Please give the proper credit for use of the image(s) and/or caption.

Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) built and operates the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) Mars Color Imager (MARCI) and Context Camera (CTX). MSSS also built and operated the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC). In addition, MSSS built the Mars Odyssey (ODY) Thermal Emission Imaging Spectrometer (THEMIS) Visible (VIS) camera subsystem, which shares optics with the thermal infrared instrument and is operated at Arizona State University (ASU). MSSS also built the suite of high resolution cameras aboard the 2009 Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and has delivered four science cameras for the 2011 Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover mission and one for the 2011 Juno Mission to Jupiter. Currently, MSSS is working on a second set of cameras for the Curiosity rover and developing the Mars Global Imaging Experiment (MAGIE) camera for a joint ESA/NASA Mars Orbiter mission launching in 2016.