Dark blue dunes rise above the coppery surface of Wirtz Crater, a possible landing site for NASA's new Mars Science Laboratory, which is set to launch in 2009.
Until now the orbiting HiRISE camera that snapped this shot had returned images only in black and white. But the instrument is equipped with detectors capable of snapping color-based shots.
Technically the new images are in false color and do not represent what the Martian surface would look like to the human eye.
Instead the colors are based on filters aboard HiRISE that see in red, blue, and infrared spectrums of light. The infrared data in particular are important for identifying the minerals on Mars's surface.
"Color data are proving very useful in interpreting geologic processes and history on Mars," Alfred S. McEwen, HiRISE principal investigator at the University of Arizona, said in a press release.
"Color clearly identifies basic material distinctions like dust, sand, or rocks; light-toned layered material; and frost or ice."
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Image courtesy NASA/JPL/University of Arizona