Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to release final rainbow map

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists are going to get new images of Mars thanks to a multi-color 5.6-gigapixel map. Covering 86% of the Red Planet’s surface, the map shows the distribution of dozens of key minerals.

By studying them, scientists can better understand Mars’ watery past and identify priority regions that need to be explored in more detail.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been mapping minerals on the Red Planet for 16 years with its Compact Mars Imaging Spectrometer (CRISM).

Using visible and infrared detectors, the CRISM team has previously created high-resolution mineral maps that provide insight into the formation of the Martian crust and where and how it has been altered by water.

These maps were pivotal in scientists’ understanding of how lakes, streams, and underground waters shaped the planet billions of years ago.

NASA has also used CRISM maps to select landing sites for other spacecraft, such as Lake Crater, where NASA’s Perseverance rover is exploring the ancient river delta.

The first part of the new map includes 51,000 images, each of which is a “band” 540 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide, it was taken during the MRO flyby over the Earth.

To acquire the data, CRISM used two spectrometers, one of which was designed with three cryochambers to keep the temperature low so it could more clearly detect the longest wavelengths of reflected solar infrared light.

The last of these cryochambers ended its lifecycle in 2017, limiting the instrument’s ability to view visible wavelengths.

Thus, this will be the last CRISM map covering the entire wavelength range of the instrument. It is currently on standby and may record data a few more times in the coming months before being decommissioned.

A final map will be released during the year, covering visible wavelengths and focusing only on iron-bearing minerals; it will have twice the spatial resolution of the last map.

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