Explore Gale Crater in your browser

Aug 08, 2012
Now you can explore a new giant mosaic of Gale Crater, landing site for NASA's Curiosity rover, built mostly using THEMIS images taken before the landing. Use your browser to zoom around the mosaic, which shows details as small as 60 feet (18 meters) across. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University/MSSS

(Phys.org) -- A large mosaic of THEMIS images showing Gale Crater, the landing site for Curiosity, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, is now available for would-be Martians to explore using their web browsers.

Gale Crater is 154 kilometers (96 miles) wide and it contains a 5-km (3-mi) high mound of layered sediments, which is a primary target for Curiosity. The mound is dubbed Mt. Sharp by scientists, who estimate the crater formed by a massive impact 3.5 to 4 billion years ago.

THEMIS is the , a multiband visible and on 's orbiter.

The mosaic, a product of the Mars Facility in ASU's School of Earth and , is at: http://jmars.mars.asu.edu/maps/gale/gale.html. This page also includes a link to download a .PNG copy of the whole image. (Caution – with a file size of 325 MB, downloads will be slow.)

The Gale Crater mosaic is woven together from 205 individual images, the vast majority of them THEMIS visual-wavelength images. (A few small holes were filled temporarily with images from the Context Camera (CTX) on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.) Such THEMIS images reveal details as small as 60 feet (18 meters) in size.

Because all the mosaic's images were taken before Curiosity landed, the rover is naturally not in the scene. In addition, although Curiosity is the largest payload ever sent to the Martian surface, the 10-foot-long rover is too small to be seen by THEMIS.

"The THEMIS images were taken throughout the whole mission," says Jonathon Hill, the Mars researcher at ASU who assembled the mosaic. "A lot of them were taken recently, after we started specifically targeting Gale when it became one of the possible landing sites. But other images go back nearly to the beginning of the mission in 2002."

In all, he says, it took about two and a half weeks to put it all together. "The thing that made it take so long was that when you blow the image up that big, or when you zoom in that much, any misalignment of the images becomes very obvious." In the end, he had to align and custom fit most of the frames manually.

While the mosaic is fun to explore, it also has a scientific use. As Hill explains, "The reason we decided to assemble such a large, comprehensive mosaic of Gale Crater was to give ourselves a better sense of the context around the landing site. This will help us to better understand what sees and measures as it roves the surface."

Explore further: Mysteries of space dust revealed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Daybreak at Gale crater

Aug 25, 2011

This computer-generated images depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater, beginning to catch morning light.

New Mars rover sends higher-resolution image

Aug 06, 2012

(Phys.org) -- About two hours after landing on Mars and beaming back its first image, NASA's Curiosity rover transmitted a higher-resolution image of its new Martian home, Gale Crater. Mission Control at ...

Mars rover Curiosity beams back images showing its descent

Aug 07, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Earlier today, just hours after NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars, a select group of images taken by the onboard Mars Descent Imager, or MARDI, were beamed back to Earth. The 297 color, low-resolution ...

Mojave Desert tests prepare for NASA Mars Roving

May 14, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Team members of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission took a test rover to Dumont Dunes in California's Mojave Desert this week to improve knowledge of the best way to operate a similar rover, ...

Recommended for you

Mysteries of space dust revealed

15 hours ago

The first analysis of space dust collected by a special collector onboard NASA's Stardust mission and sent back to Earth for study in 2006 suggests the tiny specks open a door to studying the origins of the ...

A guide to the 2014 Neptune opposition season

20 hours ago

Never seen Neptune? Now is a good time to try, as the outermost ice giant world reaches opposition this weekend at 14:00 Universal Time (UT) or 10:00 AM EDT on Friday, August 29th. This means that the distant ...

Informing NASA's Asteroid Initiative: A citizen forum

Aug 28, 2014

In its history, the Earth has been repeatedly struck by asteroids, large chunks of rock from space that can cause considerable damage in a collision. Can we—or should we—try to protect Earth from potentially ...

Image: Rosetta's comet looms

Aug 28, 2014

Wow! Rosetta is getting ever-closer to its target comet by the day. This navigation camera shot from Aug. 23 shows that the spacecraft is so close to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that it's difficult to ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jimsworldsandiego
not rated yet Aug 08, 2012
I find eyes.nasa.gov more useful in this regard.