The Mars Pathfinder Landing Site

What are you seeing?

When you look at those neat panoramic views from the Mars Pathfinder, what are you seeing? What are those various hills and lumps you can see, and how far away are they from the lander? How do the objects in panoramic views fit in with the satellite images of the area taken by the Viking spacecraft?

I put this page together to show some of these things. There are surface maps of the area around the landing site, with certain features identified, and the panoramic view from the lander, with the same features identified. It makes for some fascinating viewing.

Even more striking are stereoscopic views of the landing area, compiled from Viking data. You can see the topography of the area from above in vivid 3-D, and then match these features with those seen in the panoramic view.

All graphics here are from the various NASA sites. I have added labels to the panoramic views and selected and arranged the stereographic views so that they may be seen to best effect.

Please let me know if you discover any errors and--enjoy!

Brent Hugh (bhugh @

Overhead View/Panoramic View

Overview of the landing site
(click on the map for a much larger and more detailed view)

Notice that in the Panoramic View, below, you can see almost all features labeled on the Overhead View above. You will have to download the more detailed Panoramic View to see them all, because some of them are rather small and faint, right on the horizon.

(click on the panorama for a more detailed view)

Below is a closer view of the landing site from above, which shows several features visible in the panoramic view. In particular, notice "Little" Crater and Rimshot Crater (which is exactly behind the big pole on the lander in this panorama, but is clearly visible in some of the other panoramas available at the NASA site).

closer  view of the landing site

Stereo Views

These stereo views, from Viking orbiter data, are remarkable. They are designed to be viewed with special stereoscopic viewers, but I have set these images up so that many people can view them directly on the computer screen (or by printing them out, although you'll lose a lot of detail that way unless you have a really spiffy printer).

The views are narrow enough that you can just diverge your eyes until the two images line up with each other--and, magically, a three-dimensional view will appear. The technique is similar to that used in viewing random-dot stereograms, and these directions for viewing stereograms may help you view the Mars images on this page, as well.

Briefly, the technique for viewing the stereo pairs works like this:


Above you see two X's. If you diverge your eyes (say, by putting your nose close to the computer screen), you will see four X's--two for each eye. If you can get your eyes to diverge just right and line up just right (perhaps by moving closer or further from the computer screen and/or tipping your head slightly side to side), two of the X's will merge and you see three X's.

The Three-X effect is what we're after to view these images. Pick a prominent spot on one of the stereo pairs below (notice that the same spot appears in each of the two stereo images) and do the same thing to this pair of spots that you did to the X's. When you make two spots become three, presto! you'll be seeing Mars in 3-D.


If the images are too wide for you to allow them to line up, you may have to download them and manipulate them to get them to be the right size. I found that pasting them into my word processor allowed me to align and size them rather easily. These images work fine for me and my particular computer screen, but you and your computer screen might be different.

Most WWW browsers mess up the colors in the images, so they will look nicer if you download them and view them with a dedicated graphics viewer.

If you can't view them images by diverging your eyes (various things can make it difficult or impossible), you can still get a nice effect by putting the two stereo images on top of each other and just flashing from one to the other. You can print them out and do this manually or just do it on the computer screen (opening the two images and then using alt-tab to switch between them works nicely in Windows).

North in all the stereo images is the direction indicated by this arrow (note that the stereo images have a different orientation than the overhead view at the top of this page--in that view, north is straight up):

The exact location of Pathfinder's landing site in these images can be found by comparison with the large image at the top of this page.

Simply click on any stereo image to download it.

Stereo of landing site, left Stereo of landing site, right
A view of the landing site. Big Crater, near the landing site, is approximately 1.5 km in diameter, which gives an idea of the scale. Just above Big Crater in this image are Twin Peaks. The peaks are about 0.3 km apart. The prominent knob on the upper right side of the image is North Knob; just below it is what I call Small Crater. All these landmarks (with the possible exception of Small Crater) are visible from the lander.
This image is maximum resolution from the Viking images (30 meters per pixel).

Stereo of landing site, left Stereo of landing site, left
A more expansive view of the area surrounding the landing site. In the upper right corner is Big Crater; above it (just visible) are Twin Peaks and North Knob. In the lower left corner is Far Knob and on the lower right side, Southeast Knob.

Stereo of Landing site all the way to Southeast Knob, left and right images
This very long view takes you from the landing site near the top (notice Big Crater, Twin Peaks, and North Knob) all the the way to Southeast Knob, near the bottom. Notice how pointy Southeast Knob is on top--exactly the way it appears on the Pathfinder panoramas.
Far Knob closeup, left Far Knob closeup, right
This is a closeup of Far Knob. You can clearly see terraces, canyons, and the effect of the massive flood which flowed around Far Knob. The ridge along the top of Far Knob is approximately 5-6 km long.
Gargantuous crater, left Gargantuous crater, left
This crater is about 70 km NNE of the landing site--certainly not close enough to see from the landing site. The crater measures 9.5 km from rim to rim and is very deep. I have included it here simply because the stereo views are so stunning.

Gargantuous crater, left Gargantuous crater, right
This is a higher resolution version of the gargantuous crater 70 km NNE of the landing site.
Gargantuous crater, left Gargantuous crater, right
Another high resolution view of the gargantuous crater.
Far Knob, left Far Knob, right
A longer view of Far Knob. Here you can more clearly see to the "tail" extending from Far Knob, left by the massive flood.
Magnified Landing Site, left Magnified Landing Site, right
A magnified view of the landing site. This doesn't really have a greater resolution than the images above, but just because it' s larger, it seems like you can see a few more details.

The Man from Mars

The Man from Mars

The Man from Mars
He saw some stars,

Right after he fell
Upon on his ****.

He then forsware
To go in bars--

And that's the tale
Of the Man from Mars.

(And the above is the mugshot he received as a souvenir of the event.)

Actually, it's my passport photos--the next closest thing to mugshots--which they took with a stereographic camera in order to get the two "identical" photos required by passport regulations--but that's not a very good story, is it?

Just FYI, **** = a four-letter word rhyming with Mars and explicitly describing the particular anatomical area upon which The Man from Mars landed, and which has been cleverly disguised to protect unsuspecting internet users, in accordance with the provisions of the Communications Decency Act.

Related sites

See the Mars Pathfinder landing site in stereo (using Viking images). Courtesy of Tim Parker, Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (This is the source of all stereo views on this page.)

Stereoscopic landscapes of Mars, arranged for free viewing like this site. This is a stunning site and will give you yet another perspective of Mars!

Maps of Mars Pathfinder Landing Site, from Viking images, and an explanation of why this particular site was chosen. Take a Tour of Ares Vallis, the Pathfinder landing site (courtesy of David Palermo). Landing Site Description From The National Space Science Data Center Ames Research Center Viking Image Archive Page Of The Mars Pathfinder Landing Site

Other sites maintained by Brent Hugh

Music Instruction Software

The Interactive Internet Piano Recital--over 70 minutes of classical piano music, in RealAudio format

EarTestonline--online, interactive ear training

The Indecency Page

Brent Hugh's home page

This page was put together by Brent Hugh (bhugh @ Feel free to email me with any problems, suggestions, or just random thughts.
This page was made in about 1999.