Thanks to Google Mars, we’ve been able to explore the Red Planet through an interactive map for a few years. While their infrared heat map is awesome, it’s still exciting to see the real thing: the European Space Agency has released its nearly complete 3-D map of Mars, shot by a stereoscopic camera aboard their Mars Express.
The Express has orbited Mars more than 10,000 times since it launched in 2004. Over the past 10 years, the spacecraft has captured millions of megabytes of data, some of it helping to prove that water once existed on the planet. Another windfall has been the high-resolution images, which show us amazingly detailed perspectives of geographic details, like the great Olympus Mons volcano and the Valles Marineris canyon, which plunges more than six miles below Mars’ surface.
On February 4, the ESA released a nearly complete photographic map of the planet, stitched together from thousands of individual photos. Each pixel of the map shows about 20 meters of surface, making it possible to zoom in for a fairly detailed photographic look at Mars’s terrain. You’ll notice there’s some fuzz at the edges of the image–that’s because the map is aligned to Mars’s equators, so the poles look slightly distorted.
Now that we have a photograph-quality map of the Red Planet, it shouldn’t be long before some conspiracy theorist uncovers proof of an ancient civilization on its surface. Any takers?
Check out more images shot aboard the ESA’s Express here.