July 23rd, 2010
03:29 PM ET

NASA pieces together 'most accurate' map of Mars

A 90-mile-wide portion of the giant Valles Marineris canyon system on Mars seen at 100 meters (330 feet) per pixel.

After eight years of observations and compiling close to 21,000 images, NASA said Friday that it has constructed what it claims to be the most accurate global map Mars.

"The map lays the framework for global studies of properties such as the mineral composition and physical nature of the surface materials," said NASA scientist Jeffrey Plaut.

The map was put together from images from a camera that takes "pictures" by using infrared measurements of temperatures, called the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), aboard NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Using 10 filters, THEMIS can generate colored images.

The images were then smoothed, matched, blended and mapped to create a giant mosaic of the planet. The map allows users to zoom in as close enough so that the smallest surface details are 330 feet wide.

“While portions of Mars have been mapped at higher resolution, this map provides the most accurate view so far of the entire planet,” NASA said in a statement.

Researchers also tied the images to a mapping grid provided by the U.S. Geological Survey to increase the accuracy of the final map.

“This approach lets us remove all instrument distortion, so features on the ground are correctly located to within a few pixels and provide the best global map of Mars to date,” Philip Christensen, principal investigator for THEMIS and director of the Mars Space Flight Facility, said.

The Mars Odyssey was launched in April 2001 and reached the Red Planet in October 2001. Researchers at Arizona State University's Mars Space Flight Facility in Tempe and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California have been compiling the map since THEMIS observations began in 2002.

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Filed under: Space • Technology
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. FrancoB333

    I recall from school that early astronomers thought they saw canals on Mars – this was later discounted as being incorrect. If Mars has canyon systems, I wonder if early astromers actually had very good obervation techniques and thier error was to call them canals – a term that implies a society built the canals .. maybe they actually saw the canyons?

    July 23, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • BreakingNewsBlog.us

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      July 23, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • franky

      my government have not payed my lottery since 1996.could you sue them for billions because i am going to do the next series of star wars ,actually projecting brain visions for catalans and the cast obviously.i hope my super hearing will be useful in america for the jupiter flight with my allies,thanks.07785713358.

      July 24, 2010 at 4:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Jonathan

      Actually if I recall it correctly, he wrote canals, but it was supposed to mean channels which would imply a natural feature.

      July 30, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dwight huth

    Cool, Now everyone can see how a planet looks without all of the trees water and atmosphere which will be the same way the Earth looks if big oil is not put in check and alternative fuel sources are found to replace them.

    July 23, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. dave

    comic book guy: "Most worthless map ever."

    July 23, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TD

    WOW , I'll sure sleep better now.

    July 23, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. NG

    first google maps, then google earth, now... google mars? would be cool.

    July 23, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jason

    First sentence: ... a map OF Mars.... who proofs this stuff?

    July 30, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |