A new map of Mars shows the Red Planet in stunning detail, revealing a host of fascinating geological features seen from orbit.
The high-resolution map could help scientists answer a number of pressing questions about March including how it became a dry, arid and barren landscape when it was once abundant in liquid water.
The Martian map was created by a team of scientists led by New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Space Science Center (opens in a new tab). The researchers used data collected in orbit around Mars by the Emirates Mission to Mars (EMM), also known as Hope or Al-Amal.
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The map shows the Red Planet through the eyes of Hope’s state-of-the-art on-board imaging system, the Emirates Exploration Imager (EXI), and demonstrates the growing influence of the United Arab Emirates in science. In a statement, NYUAD wrote (opens in a new tab) that he 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 globally, as part of the new, more advanced Mars Atlas we have been working on, which will be available in English and Arabic once released,” said NYU Abu Dhabi. (NYUAD) group leader and researcher Dimitra Atri said in the statement. “The hope is that this accessibility will make it a great tool for researchers, but also for 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 the team took over 3,000 EXI observations taken over one Martian year, a period equivalent to two years here on Earth. Earth, and put them together to create a color composite. The resulting map shows many of the major 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 around 3.5 billion years ago were overflowing with liquid water. As such, the map could help planetary scientists better understand how Mars’ climate 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 one step closer to achieving 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 Mars weather, while EMM will track seasonal changes throughout a Martian year.”
By allowing scientists to study the distribution of impact craters on the planet’s arid surface, the map also reveals the history of the first asteroid bombardment of Mars. As such, the composite of EXI images could also help researchers better understand the conditions of the tumultuous onset solar system when space rock impacts were much more frequent than today.
The Hope orbiter is the first interplanetary mission for the United Arab Emirates and the Arab world as a whole. Commissioned by the leaders of the United Arab Emirates in 2014, the spacecraft was launched from Japan on July 20, 2020. After a journey of approximately seven months, Hope reached orbit around Mars on February 9, 2021.
“The Hope probe helps researchers 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 than any other spacecraft. This strategic position helps researchers create a global picture of the planet.”
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