Satellite imagery is giving us increasingly fine views of Planet Earth. A recent update, for example, shows fine detail images of Wellington made just a few months ago.
Meanwhile NASA is imaging Mars with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:
Thousands of newly released images from more than 1,500 telescopic observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show a wide range of gullies, dunes, craters, geological layering and other features on the Red Planet.
The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the orbiter recorded these images from the month of April through early August of this year. …
The new images are available at http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/releases/sept_09.php.
Each full image from HiRISE covers a strip of Martian ground 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) wide, about two to four times that long, showing details as small as 1 meter, or yard, across.
Scroll down the page I quoted from to see the location pinpointed on a Google Map, displayed in Elevation, Visible or Infrared light format. Infrared gives a very sharp view.
I don’t think I’ll ever become less astonished that humans can make these images, of a planet 13 light minutes away. That is, it takes light 13 minutes to travel from here to there, at a speed of almost 300,000 Kilometres every second. Wolfram Alpha tells me Mars is 2.354×10^8 km (kilometers) away (146.3 million miles) — a 7 month journey. I suspect that involves a lot of zeros.
Ah, Wolfram Alpha to the rescue: 235,400,000 Km.
Of course, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter flies quite close to the planet. It orbits at between 255 and 320 Km above the surface, making a complete circuit every 112 minutes.