Viking Lander 1 (Thomas Mutch Memorial Station)

Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS

Technicolor terrain

Digital terrain models, like the one above of Mars' Viking Lander 1 site, are powerful measurement tools that help scientists study geological processes of a specific type of terrain.

Using the $40 million HiRISE camera, scientists create these meticulous models with sophisticated software that combines two images of an area taken from different angles. The entire process, while extremely laborious and time-intensive, is one of the most innovative ways to study Mars' wildest geological formations.

They're also quite stunning to look at.

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Wirtz Crater Dune Changes

Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS

Wirtz Crater Dune Changes

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Distributary Channel South of Ascraeus Mons

Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS

Distributary Channel South of Ascraeus Mons

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North Polar Crater

Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS

North Polar Crater

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Bullseye Crater of Medusae Fossae Formation Over Platy-Ridged Lava

Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS

Bullseye Crater of Medusae Fossae Formation Over Platy-Ridged Lava

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Intra-Crater Dunes in Iaxartes Tholus

Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS

Intra-Crater Dunes in Iaxartes Tholus

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Fresh impact crater

Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS

Fresh impact crater

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Layering in Galle Crater

Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS

Layering in Galle Crater

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Gullied Crater in Kaiser Crater Dune Field

Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS

Gullied Crater in Kaiser Crater Dune Field

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Central Uplift of an Impact Crater

Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS

Central Uplift of an Impact Crater

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.