Feel The Heat! New Mars Map Shows Differences Between Bedrock And Sand

by Elizabeth Howell on July 16, 2014

An impact crater on Mars called Graterri, which is only 4.3 miles (6.9 km) in diameter, shines in a global heat map of the Red Planet produced in 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University

An impact crater on Mars called Graterri, which is only 4.3 miles (6.9 km) in diameter, shines in a global heat map of the Red Planet produced in 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University

For years, NASA’s Mars Odyssey has been working on some night moves. It’s been taking pictures of the Red Planet during nighttime — more than 20,000 in all — to see how the planet’s heat signature looks while the sun is down.

The result is the highest-resolution map ever of the thermal properties of Mars, which you can see here. Why is this important? Researchers say it helps tell the story about things such as if an area is shrouded with dust, where bare bedrock is, and whether sediments in a crater are packed tight or floating freely.

“Darker areas in the map are cooler at night, have a lower thermal inertia and likely contain fine particles, such as dust, silt or fine sand,” stated Robin Fergason at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Arizona, who led the map’s creation. Brighter areas are warmer, likely yielding regions of bedrock, crust or coarse sand.

The map from Odyssey’s Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) is also used for a more practical purpose: deciding where to set down NASA’s next Mars mission.

After assisting in landing site selection for the Curiosity mission, the THEMIS data will be used to figure out where the Mars 2020 rover will be placed, Arizona State University stated.

You can check out more recent THEMIS images (updated daily) on this website.

Source: Arizona State University

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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