The US Geological Survey isn’t limited to just mapping the US, or even Earth, for that matter. The agency has ventured off-planet with a gorgeously detailed new geologic map of Mars. The map draws on all the data our space explorations have returned, resulting in the most detailed geologic map of the Red Planet ever created.
“This global geologic map of Mars, which records the distribution of geologic units and landforms on the planet’s surface through time, is based on unprecedented variety, quality, and quantity of remotely sensed data acquired since the Viking Orbiters,” reads the map’s description.
The map is available as a free download. You can look at it from afar and admire the variety of nooks and crannies across the surface, or delve in deeper with details on the features and revel in the geo-speak. For example, the description for the Noachian volcanic edifice unit reads, “Shield-like edifices several tens to hundreds of kilometers across; lobate flow morphologies indistinct or absent. As much as few kilometers thick.” That should excite your inner geologist.
You’ll learn about the Late Amazonion polar cap unit (hummocky and pitted) and the Early Hesperian highland unit (relatively smooth outcrops). It should give you a feel for the variety of landscape that NASA’s famous Curiosity rover is up against. It’s also handy for cross-referencing when NASA releases news stories about the rover’s current whereabouts and activities.
The USGS geologic map of Mars is a boundary-crosser. It should appeal to space fans, map geeks, people trying to sniff out the most likely hiding places for aliens, and Mars One finalists looking to get better acquainted with their (potential) future home. The various Mars landing sites are also marked. That Curiosity landing spot sure looks like it could become a hot tourist destination some day.