Sept. 24 (UPI) -- NASA's MAVEN spacecraft has been in orbit around Mars for four years. To celebrate its birthday, the probe snapped a selfie using its array of instruments.
The selfie, shared by NASA over the weekend, is a composite image. Each of MAVEN's instruments measured the sun's ultraviolet rays reflecting off the spacecraft's different components. Scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder, compiled the observations to produce a rendering of the probe.
"We think this is the first ultraviolet selfie taken by a spacecraft," Nick Schneider, a professor in CU Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, said in a news release.
MAVEN was launched in November 2013. After 11 months of space travel, the probe entered orbit around Mars.
NASA scientists designed MAVEN to study the upper atmosphere of Mars. During the last four years, the probe's data has helped scientists better understand the history and evolution of the Martian atmosphere.
"MAVEN has been a tremendous success," said Bruce Jakosky, principal investigator on the MAVEN mission. "The spacecraft and instruments continue to operate as planned, and we're looking forward to further exploration of the Martian upper atmosphere and its influence on climate."
The spacecraft's observations over the last four years confirmed climate change on Mars was driven by the loss of the Red Planet's atmosphere. Measurements by MAVEN's instruments also showed solar storms strip ions from Mars' upper atmosphere.
With the help of MAVEN and its instrument suite, scientists have more precisely characterized the layers of Mars' thinning atmosphere, as well as documented new types of Martian aurorae.
Next year, MAVEN will descend into the Red Planet's upper atmosphere, slowing its orbit. The lower, slower orbit will allow the spacecraft to more effectively relay messages from NASA's fleet of Martian rovers.