NASA Releases New Mars Gravity Map

Posted on March 21, 2016

Martian gravity map looking down on North Pole

NASA has released a new gravity of Mars. NASA used three spacecraft in orbit around Mars to create the map. The satellites include Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), Mars Odyssey (ODY), and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). NASA says the new map provides a revealing glimpse into the planet's hidden interior.

The image above is a map of Martian gravity looking down on the North Pole. Areas of higher gravity are indicated by the white and red colors while blue regions are areas of lower gravity.

Antonio Genova, the lead author of the research paper, says in a statement, "Gravity maps allow us to see inside a planet, just as a doctor uses an X-ray to see inside a patient. The new gravity map will be helpful for future Mars exploration, because better knowledge of the planet's gravity anomalies helps mission controllers insert spacecraft more precisely into orbit about Mars. Furthermore, the improved resolution of our gravity map will help us understand the still-mysterious formation of specific regions of the planet."

Mars MOLA, Free air gravity and crustal thickness maps


The researchers have confirmed that Mars has a liquid outer core of molten rock by analyzing tides in the Martian crust and mantle. The tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and the two moons of Mars.

Genova also says, "With this new map, we've been able to see gravity anomalies as small as about 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) across, and we've determined the crustal thickness of Mars with a resolution of around 120 kilometers (almost 75 miles). The better resolution of the new map helps interpret how the crust of the planet changed over Mars' history in many regions."

You can find hi-res map images here on NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio website. A research paper on the findings was published in the journal Icarus. This video from NASA Goddard explains more about the map and how it was used to measure seasonal variations in CO2 and the planet's crustal thickness. Take a look:



Photo: MIT/UMBC-CRESST/GSFC