What Is This?

By Sam Biddle on at

Just what the hell is going on here? A sweet under the microscope? An oil slick? Are we all on drugs right now? No—well, maybe you are—but this picture isn't the result. It's from spaaa-aaace.

What you're looking at is a volcano. A Martian volcano, to be exact, named Tharsis Tholus. It looks pretty crazy here, but it's actually extinct—just a big cold hole in the ground. The reason it looks so psychedelic is because it's more than just a photo—it's a Digital Terrain Model created by the European Space Agency, with colors corresponding to height. So, no, Mars isn't actually coloured like a Skittle. Not yet, at least. [ESA via New Scientist]