NASA’s new interactive mosaic shows Mars in amazing detail


NASA has launched a new interactive tool that shows Mars in extraordinary detail and lets you travel between points of interest at the click of a mouse.

The extraordinary Global CTX Mosaic of Mars comprises 110,000 images captured by the Context Camera — or CTX — aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

In a post on its website, NASA describes the mosaic as “the highest-resolution global image of the red planet ever created.” To push the point home, it adds: “If it were printed out, this 5.7-trillion-pixel (or 5.7 terapixel) mosaic would be large enough to cover the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California.”

It took Caltech’s Bruce Murray Laboratory for Planetary Visualization six years and tens of thousands of hours to develop.

When you visit the mosaic, you’ll be presented with a viewpoint that’s some way above the Martian surface.

At the bottom of the display, you’ll find a bunch of suggestions for places to visit. Start by selecting Jezero Crater, the ancient dried lake bed where NASA’s Perseverance rover has been searching for evidence of ancient microbial life for the last couple of years, and the site of the Ingenuity helicopter’s numerous flights.

Once you’ve had a good look around by using the buttons or mouse to zoom in and out, you can get an excellent idea of the enormous distance between Perseverance and NASA’s other operational rover, Curiosity, by selecting the button for the older vehicle. As you do so, the view will gently elevate and smoothly sweep across the terrain in a similar way to how Google Earth moves between locations.

If you discover something of interest by yourself and want to come back to it later, simply bookmark the location using one of the buttons on the left side of the display.

Jay Dickson, the image processing scientist who led the project and manages the Murray Lab, said of the mosaic: “I wanted something that would be accessible to everyone. Schoolchildren can use this now. My mother, who just turned 78, can use this now. The goal is to lower the barriers for people who are interested in exploring Mars.”

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