For the first time, Earth viewers got to see Mars almost in real-time.
The European Space Agency broadcasted historic live images from Mars on YouTube.
ESA stated that the images shared on YouTube, ESA’s Twitter account, and with hashtag #MarsLIVE showed the planet as it had never been seen before.
The event marked the 20th anniversary since the launch of NASA's Mars Express orbiter, a mission that took three-dimensional pictures of the surface of the planet to better understand it.
James Godfrey said in a press release that 'normally, we see Mars images and know they were taken a few days earlier'. He is the spacecraft operations manager of ESA's Darmstadt mission control center. I'm excited to be able to see Mars now, as close as we can get to the 'now' of a Martian.
We've seen Mars images before, but not live. The ESA confirmed that yes, but it was not live.
ESA stated that data and observations are often taken of the Red Planet when a spacecraft does not have direct contact with Earth. Images are then stored until they are able to be sent back.
Messages can travel through space in 3 to 22 minute intervals, depending on the distance between Mars and Earth.
According to the ESA, it took about 17 minutes to send the light from Mars directly to Earth. It then took another minute for the signal to reach the servers and wires on Earth to start the live stream.
The agency stated in a press release that they had never done anything like this, and so the exact travel time for signals on the earth was still a bit uncertain.
Colin Wilson, an ESA project scientist, said that the Mars background was so bright that no stars could be seen.
Wilson said that if you are very close, the star is brighter. This obscures surrounding stars from the angle where the spacecraft takes the images.
Wilson said that if you were in the Mars Express spacecraft you could see a lot of the universe. "And this is actually critical to how Mars Express Navigates," he said. The spacecraft uses its onboard map, and the imaging of stars to orient it in space. This is similar to how humans have navigated oceans for centuries.
According to the statement released by the agency before the event, the new views of Mars would be expected every 50 seconds over the course of one hour. The ESA scientists reported that for a short time, transmissions from Mars had been interrupted due to bad weather at a ground station in Madrid.
Some viewers might have also noticed that the planet was not as red as they expected. Jorge Hernandez Bernal of the Mars Express visual monitoring camera team noted that Mars appeared as if it were captured with an iPhone and not how it would appear with the naked eyes.
He noted that 'Color' is a complex subject related to how our eyes work. The images of the spacecraft are also subjected to some processing in order to remove any 'noise,' or unwanted disturbances that may alter the appearance.
Mars Express sent out about an hour's worth images before it moved too far away from Mars to capture the planet. Scientists have noted that more updates will be posted on Twitter.