Want to see what Mars looked like a few days ago, so you can pretend you're flying in orbit around the red planet almost in realtime? You could be doing that right now, thanks to the European Space Agency's Mars webcam. Mounted on the Mars Express Probe is a visual light camera that basically takes pictures of the planet every day. ESA researchers post galleries of the images every few days, and even do "best of the year" compliations. One of my favorites, though, is a movie showing what Mars looked like over the course of a month — we've got it for you below.
I love that you can watch the weather moving across the face of the planet. Of course it makes one yearn for a full-color, high-resolution set of pictures, but I'll settle for this. The cam is called the Visual Monitoring Camera, and it's lucky the device even works at all. This is a standard camera, not a scientific instrument, and researchers weren't even sure it would survive the journey through space to reach Mars. But when the Mars Express reached the plent in 2007, the camera came back online and started snapping photos. Let's call them the first tourist snapshots of Mars. Watch the cam here, and find out more about the ESA Visual Monitoring Camera project here. Thanks, Eric!