Images From Earth To Reveal The Surface Of Mars

A group of scientists are using images from Earth to better understand geological formations on the surface of Mars. Originating at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL), the team traveled to Hawaii to take detailed images of the barren landscape created decades ago by lava flows.

The technology is fairly basic. A kite, just over ten feet in wingspan, with commercially available GPS monitors, cameras, and orientation equipment will take tens of thousands of pictures during their flight, and these pictures will then be complied by computer to create extremely detailed images of the Earth.

All results will be presented at the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, held in The Woodlands, Texas between March 16th and 20th.

Once the images are compiled, they will be used in comparison with those taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been photographing the red planet’s geology for the last eight years. This will allow astronomers to view and compare the detailed images of the Earth’s surface with those of Mars. Then the guesswork begins of how these differences came about.

The leader of LPL, Christopher Hamilton, studies the surface of Mars, specifically areas which appear to be of volcanic origin. His team will be able to use the images of Earth to shift through current theories about the surface of Mars. The Hawaiian landscape where the pictures were taken works well, since it is imagined that similar lava flows maybe has scored the surface of Mars.

The method used to produce such a detailed image is called orthorectification, where the scale of the image is rendered uniform. The difficulty comes when you are compiling tens of thousands of images taken at different altitudes and attempting to create a single, cohesive picture.

It can take the modeling computers weeks of processing to put out a single, correct image.

Hamilton has stated that by comparing some of the images taken by his team with those taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, they are already able to point out areas on Mars where it is much more likely that the surface was carved out by lava rather than water, as previously thought.

You can expect more information from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory after their Conference, ending later this week. To see the full article and images, visit their website here.