Washington: The joint efforts of Arizona State University (ASU) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have brought out the most detailed global map of Mars` surface.
A heat-sensing camera designed at Arizona State University has provided data to create the most detailed global map which uses data from the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), a nine-band visual and infrared camera on NASA`s Mars Odyssey orbiter.
A version of the map optimized for scientific researchers is available at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
The new Mars map was developed by the Geological Survey`s Robin Fergason at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Ariz., in collaboration with researchers at ASU`s Mars Space Flight Facility.
Fergason said that they used more than 20,000 THEMIS nighttime temperature images to generate the highest resolution surface property map of Mars ever created and that these data are freely available to researchers and the public alike.
The new map uses nighttime temperature images to derive the "thermal inertia" which is a calculated value that represents how fast a surface heats up and cools off.
As per Ferguson, darker areas in the map are cooler at night, have a lower thermal inertia, and likely contain fine particles, such as dust, silt, or fine sand and the brighter regions are warmer and have surfaces with higher thermal inertia and consist coarser sand, surface crusts, rock fragments, bedrock, or combinations of these materials.
The designer and principal investigator for the THEMIS camera Philip Christensen stated that tremendous amount of effort has gone into this great global product, which will serve engineers, scientists, and the public for many years to come and this map provides data not previously available and it will enable regional and global studies of surface properties.
Fergason noted that NASA used THEMIS images to find safe landing sites for the Mars Exploration Rovers in 2004, and for Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory rover, in 2012, and now THEMIS images are now helping NASA select a landing site for its next Mars rover in 2020.