A new map of Mars shows the red planet in stunning detail, revealing a host of fascinating geological features as seen from orbit.
The high-resolution map can help researchers answer a number of pressing questions about March including how it came to be a dry, arid and barren landscape even though it was once abundant with liquid water.
The Mars map was created by a team of researchers led by New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Center for Space Science (opens in new tab). The researchers used data collected from orbit around Mars by Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), also known as Hope or Al-Amal.
The map shows the Red Planet through the eyes of Hope's state-of-the-art onboard imaging system, the Emirates Exploration Imager (EXI), and is a testament to the UAE's growing influence in science. In a statement NYUAD wrote (opens in new tab) that it hopes the new Mars map will motivate young people in the UAE to pursue careers in STEM disciplines.
“We plan to make our map available to the entire planet, as part of the new and more advanced Atlas of Mars, which we have been working on, and will be available in both English and Arabic once published,” NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD ) group leader and researcher Dimitra Atri said in the statement. “It is hoped that this accessibility will make it an excellent tool for researchers, and also students to learn more about Mars, and showcase the opportunities that the space sector in the UAE can offer.”
To create the map, Atri and team took over 3,000 observations from EXI over a Martian year, a period equivalent to two years here on The earth, and stitched them together to build a color composite. The resulting map shows many of the key geological features of the Red Planet in high resolution.
The map reveals polar ice caps, mountains and long dormant volcanoes, as well as remnants of ancient rivers, lakes and valleys that some 3.5 billion years ago were flooded with liquid water. As such, the map can help planetary scientists better understand how the climate on Mars has changed over billions of years, resulting in the dry and barren world we observe today.
“The complete Mars map also brings the UAE and the Arab world another step closer to achieving the EMM's ambitious mission goal of providing a complete global picture of the Martian climate,” Atri added. “More than 30 previous spacecraft have only managed to capture a snapshot of Martian weather, while the EMM will follow the seasonal changes over a Martian year.”
By allowing scientists to study the distribution of impact craters across the planet's dry surface, the map also reveals the history of early asteroid bombardment of Mars. As such, the composition of EXI images can also help scientists better understand the conditions of the turbulent early Solar system when space rock impacts were much more common than today.
The Hope orbiter is the first interplanetary mission from the United Arab Emirates and from the Arab world as a whole. Commissioned by UAE leaders in 2014, the spacecraft was launched from Japan on July 20, 2020. After a journey of about seven months, Hope reached an orbit around Mars on February 9, 2021.
“The Hope probe is helping scientists create this global picture of the planet because of its strategic position,” Atri said. “Hope circles Mars in an elliptical orbit that allows it to observe from much further away than any other spacecraft. This strategic position helps scientists create a global picture of the planet.”