20 August 2008

How to Look at Mars

Posted by Ryan Anderson

There is so much Mars data out there that it hard to keep track of all of it! Thankfully there are some useful tools that let anyone look easily look at orbital data of anywhere on the planet.

The first is a program called “jmars“. This java-based program distributed by Arizona State University lets you overlay all sorts of global datasets, from MOLA topography to THEMIS nighttime infrared maps to H2O abundance from the Odyssey gamma ray spectrometer. It also shows the location of high-resolution images from MOC, HiRISE and CTX, and lets you either load a low-resolution version of the images right in jmars, or click a link and web-browse to a higher-resolution version. I use this program all the time. Here’s a screenshot of what I’m (supposed to be) working on right now. It shows a THEMIS day-IR map of the Meridiani region of Mars with CTX images overlaid on top and outlines of the locations of all the HiRISE (red) and MOC (pink) images of the area. (click for a bigger version)

I also discovered yesterday that you can generate a 3D view of Mars with jmars also! Check out this view of Valles Marineris (no vertical exaggeration).

The second tool that I often use is Google Earth. “But wait!” you say, “I thought we were talking about Mars!” Oh, we are. The trick is, you just drape earth in Mars data and everything works great! Here’s a link to a website describing how to set up Google earth to display all sorts of Mars data. Follow the directions and soon you too can click and zoom on a globe that looks like this:

Have fun!