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Caltech and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Create Highest-Resolution Global Image of Mars

Caltech, with data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), has created the highest-resolution global image of Mars ever, known as the Global CTX Mosaic of Mars. The mosaic comprises 110,000 black-and-white images captured by MRO’s Context Camera and covers nearly 270 square feet (25 square meters) of surface per pixel. With a resolution of 5.7 terapixels, the mosaic displays stunning details of cliffsides, impact craters, and dust devil tracks, making it the most detailed global image of Mars ever created.

It took six years and tens of thousands of hours of work to develop the Global CTX Mosaic of Mars, and a beta version of the image has already been cited in over 120 peer-reviewed scientific papers. The project’s aim was to create an image that would be accessible to everyone, including schoolchildren and older adults, to make it easier for people interested in exploring Mars to engage with the planet.

The CTX camera is useful for spotting impact craters on the surface, while the HiRISE camera captures color images of surface features as small as a dining room table.

The Mars Color Imager (MARCI), which is operated by the same team that manages CTX, generates a daily global map of Mars weather at a lower spatial resolution compared to CTX. To create the Global CTX Mosaic of Mars, an algorithm was developed to match images based on the features they captured. The remaining images that the algorithm was unable to match were manually interwoven together. The gaps in the mosaic indicate parts of Mars that were not imaged by CTX at the time of the project or areas obscured by clouds or dust.

The gaps in the mosaic represent parts of Mars that hadn’t been imaged by CTX at the time of the project, or areas obscured by clouds or dust.

Users can explore regions such as Gale Crater, Jezero Crater, and Olympus Mons, adding topographic data from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor mission. The mosaic throws a highlight of impact craters across the entire planet, giving viewers an idea about Mars.

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