Visual artist Sean Doran created a video simulation of what it would be like to soar above the Martian surface.
Doran accomplished this by stitching together and processing data collected by the University of Arizona’s HiRSE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
As the orbiter circles the planet from about 200 miles above, HiRISE collects visible light. It is the most powerful camera that has ever been sent to another planet.
Besides providing researchers with rich, high-resolution images of another planet, HiRISE is also used to map out sites where rovers and landers might navigate.
The video, which is now up to over 37,000 views on YouTube, depicts the Gorgonum Chaos, a depression on the Martian surface marked by gullies and geographic features suggesting the presence a long-gone lake.
The 2 minute and 20 second-long video was not made using actual footage. The visual feat required heavy image processing to create such a realistic view.
Doran started with high-resolution elevation data, then used software to create a kind of 3D model. He then processed it further in Photoshop where he added the sky and detail enhancements, he told Gizmodo. Then, using more software, he animated the image to create fly-by effect over the barren terrain of the Red Planet.
“The quality and fidelity of the data products HiRISE provides enables a virtual photograph to be taken of the Martian surface,” Doran told Gizmodo. “It’s not as good as being there, but it’s the next best thing!”