Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University
You can explore the map yourself by visiting the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) website.
One of the most detailed ever maps of Mars, showing Martian surface properties with greater precision than ever before, has been released to the public.
The map was created using the heat sensing Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) on board NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter.
The public are invited to explore the map hosted on the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) website.
“We used more than 20,000 THEMIS night time temperature images to generate the highest resolution surface property map of Mars ever created”, said Robin Fergason a member of the USGS Astrogeology Science Centre in Arizona who helped to create the map.
The data is now freely available to researchers and the public alike.
The map shows the temperature of the Mars at night when THEMIS observed the surface.
The temperature of dust and sand changes quickly as they are made up of small loose grains that absorb and radiate heat rapidly.
When the night-time observations were taken, they had already cooled down and so appear dark on the map.
Meanwhile solid bedrock takes a lot longer to heat up during the day, but is much better at holding on to this heat so takes longer to cool down again.
These were still warm when the images were taken and are shown as bright patches.
The website also allows visitors to examine other features on the planet.
The map can be used to navigate across the entire surface of Mars, and by switching layers, to investigate different surface features.
The map shows the surface’s reflectivity, highlighting the dark features amateur astronomers may be familiar with from their own observations of Mars, but the other layers show the planet’s geology.
For instance, the TES layers let you investigate what minerals make up the surface, while others reveal its roughness and temperature (IRTM).
Using the search bar it’s possible zero in on specific locations on the planet and explore particular regions.
Images can be exported at a range of resolutions and kept for future reference.