Anyone can look at Mars: NASA Crater View
Published: July 12, 2015
Anyone can look at Mars: NASA Crater View, From Mars’ highest volcano to its deepest canyon, the spectacular geography of the red planet can now be explored in incredible detail.
Nasa has released an online tool known as ‘Mars Trek,’ which aims to provide Google Earth-like experience so that users can explore the red planet’s terrain.
The zoomable map provides detailed views of landmarks such as Olympus Mons, the largest-known volcano in the solar system, measuring more than 15 miles (24 km) above its surrounding surface.
Other notable features on the map include Valles Marineris, a canyon that runs across one fourth of Mars’ surface and measures about 90 miles (150km) wide.
Across the map, gigantic rift valleys fracture the surface over vast distances. Huge outflow channels tell the stories of floods in Mars’ distant past, when water flowed across its surface.
Studying these landforms reveals how Mars’ environment has gone through tremendous changes over time, and understand how life might possibly have survived there to the present.
The tool also provides users with the option of using a 3D view, which rotates the red planet to reveal its north and south poles.
There is an option that shows the positions of different Mars orbiters alongside a tool that shows the planet through the eyes of a thermal emission camera.
Evidence of water on Mars dates back to the Mariner 9 mission, which arrived in 1971. It revealed clues of water erosion in river beds and canyons.
Viking orbiters that followed caused a revolution in ideas about water on Mars by showing how floods carved deep valleys.
Mars is currently in the middle of an ice age, so liquid water cannot exist on its surface at the present time. However, the planet seems to have been warmer and wetter in the past.
In June last year, Curiosity found Powerful evidence that water good enough to drink once flowed on Mars.
In September, the first scoop of soil analysed by Curiosity revealed that fine materials on the surface of the planet contain two per cent water by weight.
And, if you have a 3D printer to hand, the map provides details of how to print out various features on the red planet.
Last month, scientists revealed that water on Mars was flowing on the planet much more recently than first thought – and experts believe it is likely to appear again relatively soon.
Observing gullies on the surface, researchers found that melting snow and ice could cause brief flows to move across the planet.
This was due to a favourable tilt of Mars just 500,000 years ago, and a similar tilt will occur again in 140,000 years.
The research was led by PhD candidate Tjalling de Haas from Utretch University in the Netherlands. It focused specifically on a Martian crater called Istok, which is thought to have formed about one million years ago.
Halfway through this crater’s life, the scientists think that muddy ice water, several inches deep, flowed down its walls.
Interestingly, this requires ten times more liquid water to have existed on Mars than previously thought.
The Martian surface has been the subject of scientific observation since the 1600s, first by Earth-based telescopes, and later by fly-by missions and orbiting spacecraft.
The Mariner 9 and Viking Orbiter missions produced the first planet-wide views of Mars’ surface, enabling publication of the first global Mars geologic maps in 1978 and 1986-87.
The latest map follows the creation of a similar tool by Mapbox, a custom online map service used by companies including Pinterest and Uber, made using data from Nasa and Esa spacecraft.
Like Nasa’s interactive map, the whole surface of Mars is then rendered in high-resolution, with landing sites and geological features on the surface highlighted.
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