August 15, 2022

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5.6 giga pixels.  This is the accuracy of the latest map of Mars

5.6 giga pixels. This is the accuracy of the latest map of Mars

The new map of the red planet, created thanks to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, is undoubtedly one of the most detailed in the history of this object.

It also impresses with its extent as it covers 86% of the surface of Mars. Thanks to him, astronomers can trace the distribution of minerals that are important from the point of view of science. By analyzing their distribution, they will be able to better understand the history of the Red Planet, including the presence of water.

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So far, the first parts of the map have reached the network, while more will be available in the next six months. The first series of images consists of about 51,000 images, each representing a belt 540 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide. They were immortalized during MRO’s flights over the surface of Mars.

The aforementioned probe has been searching for minerals on the Red Planet for 16 years. For this purpose, it uses the CRISM tool, i.e. Compressed Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer of Mars. Using detectors to detect visible and infrared waves, mission scientists had previously produced high-resolution maps that provided data on the composition of Mars’ crust and the effect of water on the process. These maps have been useful in researching how lakes, streams, and groundwater have shaped the planet.

The new map was created thanks to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

In the case of the new map, we are not dealing with such high resolution. CRISM is now on standby and will be used several times over the next few months before being turned off. The latest map, which covers visible wavelengths and focuses exclusively on iron-containing minerals, will be released within one year. Its accuracy will be twice the previous accuracy.

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Read also: The radiation on Mars is strong, so you’ll have to look for life there somewhere else than you think

Mars, although it could have contained much more water in the past than it does today, and had a more solid and dense atmosphere, is now a dry and possibly lifeless planet. Recent reports indicate that even 800 million years ago the situation could have been completely different. By analyzing the distribution of minerals, scientists should be able to more accurately date events in the history of the Red Planet.