Caltech’s 5.7 Terapixel Mars Mosaic Brings the Red Planet Home

Caltech’s 5.7 Terapixel Mars Mosaic Brings the Red Planet Home

Caltech’s 5.7 Terapixel Mars Mosaic Brings the Red Planet Home

The lands of Mars can now be explored from home’s comfort – a team from Caltech recently came up with a 5.7 Terapixel Mars mosaic that users can explore in 3D. This new global CTX mosaic features a 5 meters-per-pixel resolution. The makers claim that its image quality is 20x better than the previous global Mars maps.

The said mosaic allows the users to explore approximately 99.5% of the Martian surface spanning from 88°s north to 88° south.

The remaining half percent is, however, missing as the orbiter has probably failed to snap the shots of the area. Besides, the images were probably lacking adequate quality to include in the mosaic. A total of 1,10,000 images were taken to generate the said mosaic. The Mars reconnaissance orbiter (MRO) leveraged its own boarded context camera for the snaps. The said MRO has been orbiting Mars since 2006.

The Hand-Stitched Snaps

An exclusive feature-matching algorithm has been used to stitch the snaps. The said algorithm involves nondestructive processing to merge images which helps it prevent blurring or smoothing of the image boundaries. However, the entire job was not the magic of the algorithm alone.

I worked on this for six years, but the MRO team has spent the past couple of decades making this possible in the first place. And the spacecraft is still out there doing great science.Jay Dickson

Caltech’s team invested three years in joining 13,000 of those images manually, as clouds and dust storms in the images prevented the algorithm from matching them up properly.

It’s being said that the three-dimensional mosaic can easily scale to outcrop resolution.

The team was headed by Jay Dickson, who is currently handling the responsibility of lab manager at Caltech’s Bruce Murray Laboratory for planetary visualization. It was Dickson who designed the new map and initiated the project in 2016 when Caltech handed over the responsibility of establishing the lab.

Caltech claims that the new Martian mosaic features an unprecedented scale. If users print it out at 300 DPI, the entire 5.7 trillion pixel image could be adequate enough to cover California’s Rose Bowl Stadium and its parking.

It also features the details required to point out tiny rock formations that can serve scientists’ interests. In addition, this feature will allow users to browse through the Martian contours.

Who Can Refer To The Map

According to Caltech, the map can cater to everyone – from school kids to octogenarians. Caltech says that the lab has published this mosaic to omit the barriers for people keenly interested in exploring the Martian land. Those tags also feature shortcuts on the bottom of the map to help users conveniently navigate to various Martian landscapes, including Medusae Fossae, Olympus mons, Terra Sirenum, etc.

The map boasts different tags highlighting the enchanting geographical features of the red planet.

The mosaic doesn’t dishearten those who dream of observing NASA’s Mars rover fleet – it highlights famous rovers like Curiosity, Spirit, Perseverance, and Opportunity.

The map clearly traces out their regular route to help users understand how far they are from each other and how much area of the Martian surface they have been able to discover yet.

The only downside is the images have been published in black and white. Thus, the red planet’s ‘red portions’ will still look black to the users.

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