ArcGIS Online

Observing the Red Planet

Given its relative proximity to Earth, as well as being the second most hospitable planet in our solar system, Mars is an obvious choice for human observation and exploration.

From celestial charts inscribed on the ceilings of ancient Egyptian tombs, to modern day digital imagery maps, humans have been observing and documenting Mars for millennia. NASA has been using spacecraft for remote sensing of Mars since 1964, when Mariner 4 became the first mission to successfully take close-up photos of the Martian surface. Subsequent missions have produced a number of imagery archives and products.

Passionate about making access to imagery fast and scalable, Dr. Lucian Plesea of Esri has recently made some Mars imagery products accessible as highly performant web services in ArcGIS Online. Through collaboration with planetary mapping guru Trent Hare from the USGS Astrogeology Science Center, Dr. Plesea also produced the most comprehensive online composite of HiRISE imagery to date.

What does this all mean? Well, it means that you can use a variety of ArcGIS tools and viewing environments to experience some great Mars imagery and terrain data. It is worth noting that there is still a bit of R&D involved, and there are some limitations with extraterrestrial data in the platform. However, we don’t think this should stop you from having some fun and making your own Mars observations.

Apps and Maps

The Story Map highlighted below provides an overview of Mars imagery while highlighting some of its most spectacular surface features.

A Story Map highlighting imagery of Mars.

This web map contains a number of imagery layers along with named features and locations (nomenclature).  You can point and click on the map to get more information about certain features.  You can also use the search bar to find and zoom to features by name.

Web map highlighting Mars imagery and surface features.

Imagery and Elevation Layers

Each of the layers highlighted below can be found in the Esri Astro Group in ArcGIS Online.

MDIM 2.1 Colorized Global Image Mosaic with a spatial resolution of ~230m per pixel.
HRSC/MOLA 200m Blended DEM displayed here as a color shaded relief map.
Olympus Mons Caldera, Mars CTX (beta01) Image Mosaic with a spatial resolution of 5m per pixel.
At the edge of Victoria Crater, HiRISE imagery with a resolution of 30cm per pixel.
This perspective view of Valles Marineris is rendered with a blend of MDIM 2.1 and CTX imagery draped over MOLA/HRSC Terrain in Pro.

About the author

Robert joined Esri in March 2017 as Production Manager with the ArcGIS Living Atlas team. He takes great pride in being a part of all that goes into providing Esri users with the rich online content that the Living Atlas offers...content to complement and enhance Esri's industry leading geospatial platform...content to drive and support the Science of Where.

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