Did you ever imagine that one day you’ll take a look at the detailed map of Mars? Well, the map is here. It took scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Virginia more than 16 years to create a colorful map of the red planet. It shows Mars as it is today while also shedding light on the planet’s past. Scientists prepared the map with the help of data collected from four separate orbiting spacecraft.
Some parts of Mars are much older than scientists thought
The map reveals that a large part of the red planet’s surface is much older than researchers previously thought. The dark brown areas on the map were formed more than four billion years ago. Dr Kenneth Tanaka, lead author of the study, said that the spacecraft exploration in the past few decade has vastly improved our understanding of the planet. The new map provides information to test new hypotheses.
Most of the surface of the map was formed during the Early Noachian Epoch, between 4.1 and 3.7 billion years ago. This period was characterized by the possible presence of surface water, widespread erosion of the surface, and high rates of meteorite impact. The map confirms that the planet had been geologically active until the modern-day.
The Mariner 9 mission, which reached the red planet in 1971, found the first evidence of water on Mars. It provided clues of water erosion in canyons and riverbeds. But now the planet is in the midst of an ice age. So, there is no chance of liquid water on its surface at present. In June 2013, Curiosity rover found strong evidence that surface water good enough to drink once flows on the red planet.
The map will help scientists find landing sites for future Mars missions
The map shows volcanoes and lava flows in red, purple and orange colors depending on the type of feature described and the time of formation. The light blue regions show the Amazonian polar caps. Low-lying deposits between 3-7 kilometers are shown in white and green colors. Highland areas that are three kilometers above the surface are highlighted in brown and gray.
The USGS Acting Director Suzette Kimball said the details shown in the map will help astrologers evaluate possible landing sites for the future Mars missions. NASA aims to take humans to Mars by 2030s, while billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX aims to accomplish this feat by 2026.