GIS Used To Catalog And Map The Mars Landscape

May 27, 1998

Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the tool of choice of modern geographers to map natural and man-made features on the earth's surface, is also being used to depict the surface of Mars, according to astrogeologists with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Speaking to the spring meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in Boston, today (May 27), Kenneth Tanaka told fellow scientists how he and his colleagues at the USGS in Flagstaff, Ariz., are using NASA's Viking images and GIS techniques to investigate the origin of ancient river valleys on Mars and to map impact craters, faults and volcanoes on the Red Planet's surface.

Just as GIS enables geographers to manipulate terrain, infrastructure and population data to produce maps useful to earthbound land-use planners, the data fed into the Mars GIS has enabled Tanaka and his colleagues to conclude that on early Mars, when geothermal activity was high, impacts, volcanic and intrusive activity led to valley formation, presumably due to vigorous hydrothermal circulation of ground water and possible melting of local snow packs. More recently formed near three younger impact craters, where impact shaking may have forced water to erupt onto the surface from beneath the kilometers-deep zone of Mars permafrost.

Tanaka said he envisions many other geologic applications of planetary data using GIS, and that the next step will be to build a planetary GIS database with user-friendly analysis tools that can be accessed by the scientific community, via the Internet.

US Geological Survey

Related Mars Articles from Brightsurf:

Water on ancient Mars
A meteorite that originated on Mars billions of years ago reveals details of ancient impact events on the red planet.

Surprise on Mars
NASA's InSight mission provides data from the surface of Mars.

Going nuclear on the moon and Mars
It might sound like science fiction, but scientists are preparing to build colonies on the moon and, eventually, Mars.

Mars: Where mud flows like lava
An international research team including recreated martian conditions in a low-pressure chamber to observe the flow of mud.

What's Mars made of?
Earth-based experiments on iron-sulfur alloys thought to comprise the core of Mars reveal details about the planet's seismic properties for the first time.

The seismicity of Mars
Fifteen months after the successful landing of the NASA InSight mission on Mars, first scientific analyses of ETH Zurich researchers and their partners reveal that the planet is seismically active.

Journey to the center of Mars
While InSight's seismometer has been patiently waiting for the next big marsquake to illuminate its interior and define its crust-mantle-core structure, two scientists, have built a new compositional model for Mars.

Getting mac and cheese to Mars
Washington State University scientists have developed a way to triple the shelf life of ready-to-eat macaroni and cheese, a development that could have benefits for everything from space travel to military use.

Life on Mars?
Researchers from Hungary have discovered embedded organic material in a Martian meteorite found in the late 1970s.

New evidence of deep groundwater on Mars
Researchers at the USC Arid Climate and Water Research Center (AWARE) have published a study that suggests deep groundwater could still be active on Mars and could originate surface streams in some near-equatorial areas on Mars.

Read More: Mars News and Mars Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to