Caltech researchers have created an interactive map of Mars using 110,000 images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The Global CTX Mosaic of Mars is a detailed map that covers 99.5% of the planet’s surface, allowing anyone to explore the Red Planet with unprecedented detail.
Creating the Map
The team used an algorithm that matched images based on their features, similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. They were able to process most of the 110,000 CTX images, but about 13,000 had to be stitched together manually, taking three years to complete. The finished product is a 20-fold increase in resolution compared to the highest-resolution global map of Mars prior to this one. Each of the map’s 5.7 trillion pixels corresponds to 25 square meters of land.
The interactive map allows visitors to scroll across the surface of Mars, zoom in on features that catch their eye, or click on links to notable features such as Olympus Mons or the locations of NASA’s Mars rovers. The map also provides educational value, enabling schoolchildren to explore Mars and make discoveries from home.
Not only is the Global CTX Mosaic of Mars entertaining and educational, it also has scientific significance. The beta version released in 2018 has been cited in more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers. The new map will aid in future research and exploration of Mars, providing researchers with valuable data to study the planet’s geology.
Jay Dickson, the project leader, said, “I wanted something that would be accessible to everyone. Schoolchildren can use this now. My mother, who just turned 78, can use this now. The goal is to lower the barriers for people who are interested in exploring Mars.” The map is an exciting new way for people to explore the Red Planet.