An astronaut's-eye view of the Red Planet

We are familiar -- though not as familiar, of course, as we'd like to be -- with Mars. We know what the planet looks like from a distance. We know what it looks like from up close. But what about the space between? What would Mars look like if you were orbiting it?

In the composite film above, the European Space Agency combined 600 individual still images captured by Mars Express's Visual Monitoring Camera on May 27, 2010 -- the spacecraft's 8,194th orbit. The images, taken during a seven-hour range (on Earth), were transmitted back to us via ESA's New Norcia deep space station in Australia.

Portrayed in the video are the craft's slow descent from high above the planet: You can watch the images speeding up and then slowing down again as the distance from the planet increases. You can also see, toward the beginning of the video, "giant Martian volcanoes," followed by "the beginning of the ice coverage around the South Pole as the spacecraft crosses over to the night side of the planet." At the end of the film, if you look closely, you can see the disk of Phobos as it crosses from the top of the image to the bottom. 

Not quite the same as being an astronaut orbiting Mars ... but it comes pretty close.

Via Universe Today.