Even to the telescopically enhanced eye, there’s not a lot you can say about the surface of Mars beyond the well known colour of the planetary surface. But beneath all that iron-tinged dust there’s a lot going.
How much, you ask? Enough to make a new map of Mars prepared for NASA one of the most fascinating scientific diagrams we’ve seen for a while, even if you don’t know your Elysium Mons from your Tharsis basin. It’s a full geological map of the planet stitched together from more than two decades of academic research.
And once you’ve admired the picture, the full research paper Geological Map of Mars by Kenneth L Tanaka et al is a fascinating overview of Martian history in a couple of dozen pages, if you have time. Hidden among the dense descriptions of datasets are some intriguing insights into how different features – like impact craters – are dated. The conclusion, that the surface of Mars is both older than we previously realised and yet many features were also formed faster.
You can download the full map with key here. Click the image below for an overview with descriptions of the different bits of research which were collated from different surveys over the last 23 years.