Humans haven’t set foot on Mars — yet — but we’ve already got the maps drawn up. A new map released earlier this month shows the Red Planet in all its dusty glory.
The map was created with real photos taken by Hope, a United Arab Emirates spacecraft that’s orbiting the planet. Hope’s mission is to observe and record weather phenomena on Mars. But when Hope’s images started coming back to Earth, scientists quickly noticed the high quality and detail of the pictures.
“I was just blown away by the quality of the image showing the full disk,” Dimitra Atri, a research scientist at the Center for Space Science at New York University Abu Dhabi, told the New York Times. “I had never seen Mars like this.”
Over the course of months, Atri’s team put together more than 3,000 images to create the map. It shows the Martian surface in natural light and free of clouds — meaning each of the thousands of photos was selected to depict the same time of day and weather over the whole planet.
“The Hope probe is helping researchers to create this global image of the planet due to its strategic position,” Atri said in an NYUAD press release. “Hope circles Mars in an elliptical orbit that allows it to observe from much further away than any other spacecraft.”
Each image from Hope captured a larger portion of Mars than images from a craft closer to the surface, and in greater detail.
Here’s the full map, complete with place names and the polar caps, as shared by the Hope Twitter account:
The Emirates Mars Mission is pleased to share this map of Mars created by the NYU Abu Dhabi team using images taken by the Emirates Exploration Imager (EXI) on-board the Hope probe. pic.twitter.com/8tS1bnj0SQ
— Hope Mars Mission (@HopeMarsMission) April 11, 2023
Atri’s team also turned the map into a spinning globe, shown in this YouTube video:
In the coming years, the Emirates Mars Mission plans to capture a year’s worth of images to create a better understanding of the Martian climate. The project also serves as a demonstration of the UAE’s space program — it’s the nation’s first interplanetary mission.