Scientists will get a new look at Mars because of a multicolored 5.6-gigapixel map. Covering 86% of the Red Planet’s surface, the map shows the distribution of dozens of essential minerals. After looking at mineral distribution, scientists can adequately understand Mars’ watery past and prioritize which regions require it to be studied in greater depth.
The first parts of this map were released by NASA’s Planetary Data System. Over the following six months, more will be disclosed, fishing one of the most comprehensive surveys of the Martian surface ever made.
Utilizing detectors that see visible and infrared wavelengths, the CRISM team has produced high-resolution mineral maps that deliver a record of the construction of the Martian crust and where and how it was distorted by water. These maps have been significant in helping scientists comprehend how lakes, streams, and groundwater shaped the planet billions of years ago. NASA has also utilized CRISM’s maps to select landing locations for other spacecraft, as with Jezero Crater, where NASA’s Perseverance rover inspects an ancient river delta.
The first portion of this new map contains 51,000 images, each depicting a “strip” 336 miles long by 6 miles wide that was snapped as MRO passed overhead. The resolution is worse than CRISM maps made from targeted observations because the data was obtained through the instrument looking straight down, a distinct imaging strategy developed to cover much more of the planet.
One last map will be sent out this year, wrapping visible wavelengths and concentrating only on iron-bearing minerals; this will possess twice the spatial resolution of the latest map.
“The CRISM investigation has been one of the crown jewels of NASA’s MRO mission,” announced Richard Zurek, the mission’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Analyses based on these final maps will provide new insights into the history of Mars for many years to come.”