A new gravity map of Mars, based on data from three orbiting spacecraft, has been released. “Slight differences in Mars’ gravity changed the trajectory of the NASA spacecraft orbiting the planet, which altered the signal being sent from the spacecraft to the Deep Space Network. These small fluctuations in the orbital data were used to build a map of the Martian gravity field.”
The data enables the crustal thickness of Mars to be determined to a resolution of approximately 120 kilometres. Here’s a short video explaining the significance:
Another online map of Mars, this one titled (Is There) Life on Mars? and produced by Kenneth Field using ArcGIS. On the information pane he says, cryptically, “There’s a hidden element on the map that explains why I really made it. Happy hunting.” [via]
Eleanor Lutz’s map of Mars isn’t exactly medieval in style (that’s not the right word for it), but it applies an ostensibly old aesthetic to a very modern map subject. “I thought it would be fun to use their historical design style to illustrate our current adventures into unexplored territory. […] Since the base map is hand-drawn I also added an overlay of actual NASA topographic imagery. This way even if some of my lines are a little off, you can still see what the actual ground looks like underneath.” Whatever you call it, it looks amazing. [via]
New Horizons mission scientists have created a geological map of a portion of Pluto’s terrain. “This map covers a portion of Pluto’s surface that measures 1,290 miles (2,070 kilometers) from top to bottom, and includes the vast nitrogen-ice plain informally named Sputnik Planum and surrounding terrain. As the key in the figure below indicates, the map is overlaid with colors that represent different geological terrains. Each terrain, or unit, is defined by its texture and morphology—smooth, pitted, craggy, hummocky or ridged, for example. How well a unit can be defined depends on the resolution of the images that cover it. All of the terrain in this map has been imaged at a resolution of approximately 1,050 feet (320 meters) per pixel or better, meaning scientists can map units with relative confidence.”
The Ordnance Survey has created a map of Mars. “The one-off Ordnance Survey Mars map, created using NASA open data and made to a 1:4,000,000 scale, is made to see if our style of mapping has potential for future Mars missions.” It looks very much like a topographic map of Mars might; the reduced version is a bit more screen-friendly.
Esri’s Solar System Atlas collects maps of all the planets, dwarf planets, moons, asteroids and comets that have been visited by spacecraft in one location. (At least the ones with solid surfaces.) Now keep in mind that maps of other objects in the solar system are generally spacecraft imagery stitched together into a mosaic and displayed on a map projection, and this is mostly what is presented here (plus some colourized topographic maps and a few geologic maps). Not many of the maps are labelled, which is a shame: bare imagery isn’t terribly useful. Also, the map tiles load slowly, and zooming out doesn’t always refresh them. But as a concept, I’m all for this. More from Esri’s Matt Artz. [via]
Compare pre-flyby and post-flyby maps of Pluto and you’ll get a sense of just how much our understanding of that dwarf planet’s terrain improved last year. The pre-flyby map was derived from Hubble observations, the post-flyby map from imagery collected from the New Horizons spacecraft (obviously). Image credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Marc Buie. [via]
As I predicted, a new global map of Pluto has been released that incorporates the imagery that has been downlinked so far from the New Horizons flyby: with gridlines, without gridlines. If nothing else, the equatorial projection demonstrates how much of Pluto’s surface was not seen during the very brief encounter. From what I understand, imagery downlinks will resume in September and carry on for another year, so this map will almost certainly see many more updates.
The New Horizons spacecraft’s rendezvous with Pluto is next week, folks, but we’re already getting better views of our favourite dwarf planet than we’ve ever had before. NASA has assembled images taken between June 27 and July 3 into the above map, which despite its relatively low resolution shows some intriguing surface features: the so-called “whale” and “donut.” (Of course, low resolution is relative: this is already much better than the Hubble-based maps of Pluto released in 2005 and 2010.)
Dawn’s first colour map of Ceres: map-projected false-colour images of the dwarf planet taken as the spacecraft approached, assembled from images taken through blue, green and infrared filters. (Previously: At Ceres.)
Maps of planets, moons and other objects in our solar system always get me excited, though truth be told they were among the less popular posts on my old Map Room blog. Here are a couple of rather colourful recent examples: