A Day in the Life of a Living Mars

by Nancy Atkinson on March 11, 2013

Back in January we posted some intriguing images showing concepts of what a terraformed “living Mars” might look like from orbit. With a bit of creative license, software engineer Kevin Gill turned the Red Planet into its own version of the Blue Marble. He’s now created an animation showing a rotating Mars and compressed 24 hours to one minute.

Kevin explains how he did the animation:

The base two dimensional elevation model was generated using data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter aboard the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft and satellite imagery from the Blue Marble Next Generation project. Sea level was set non-scientifically, but such that it would flood much of Valles Marineris as well as provide shoreline near the cliffs on the outer edges of Olympus Mons. The clouds are straight from NASA’s Blue Marble NG project and height mapped (rather arbitrarily, but looks good) by relative opacity (The more opaque a point, the higher up in the atmosphere I put it). This was rendered using a digital elevation modeling program I am writing, jDem846, with some extras baked in through its scripting interface, and encoded to video with ffmpeg. Because I defaulted to Earth-based time, each frame is about one minute in time over twenty-four hours.

Kevin told us that this project was “something that I did both out of curiosity of what it would look like and to improve the software I was rendering this in,” he said via email. “I am a software engineer by trade and certainly no planetary scientist, so with the exception of any parts derived from actual data, most of it is assumptions I made based on simply comparing the Mars terrain to similar features here on Earth (e.g. elevation, proximity to bodies of water, physical features, geographical position, etc) and then using the corresponding textures from the Blue Marble images to paint the flat image layer in a graphics program.”

This is a fun and thought-provoking look at what Mars may have looked in the past … or if things had worked out just a little differently in our Solar System!

A conception of an ancient and/or future Mars, flush with oceans, clouds and life. Credit: Kevin Gill.

A conception of an ancient and/or future Mars, flush with oceans, clouds and life. Credit: Kevin Gill.


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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