Mars Express has mapped most of Martian surface
Paris, Feb 5 : The Mars Express space probe, which this year celebrates the 10th anniversary of its launch, has mapped almost 90 percent of the surface of the Red Planet, the European Space Agency announced Monday.
The photographs of the planet's surface have been taken from orbit around Mars with the probe's High Resolution Stereo Camera, which is capturing the images in colour, in three dimensions and with a resolution of about 10 meters per pixel.
The map is comprised of 2,702 individual shots, grouped into a type of mosaic in which can be seen the gaps that still need to be photographed.
The shots specifically affected by dust or atmospheric effects have not been included, according to the ESA, which said that the changes in tone or shading in the images are due to the differing dust content of the atmosphere and to different lighting conditions.
Scientists say that if the atmospheric conditions are sufficiently good, the remaining gaps could be filled in "in the next few years".
At present, some of the most relevant sites on Mars can already be observed on the map, including Olympus Mons, considered to be the largest volcano in the Solar System with an altitude of 21 km.
In addition, the map shows the Valles Marineris, in the equatorial region, which is comprised of a system of gigantic canyons some 4,800 km long with lengthy valleys and gorges probably created by tectonic movements.