Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mars Terrain in Orbiter

I updated the "marker" data for Mars in my Orbiter installation to add Phoenix at its estimated latitude and longitude and used that in a Mars north pole region image for a post the other day. Today I saw a post discussing how to do this updating in the blog U Kuprasów (an excellent Orbiter-related blog in Polish, by Jacek Kupras). The images gave me an idea. I took this landing area image (which is actually a laser altimeter image from Mars Global Surveyor), scaled it, and pasted it as a layer onto a section of the Orbiter Mars terrain (using Paintshop Pro). I used transparency to line them up, and if you look closely, you can see that the Orbiter features (and Phoenix location) match the real ones pretty well (click the image to see a bigger version). The crater just to the right of the red "Phoenix 2008" is "Heimdall crater," the ~10 km crater that was visible in the amazing MRO shot of Phoenix and its parachute.

This is not surprising since the Orbiter terrain texture maps are made from NASA data, but it's still pretty cool. This is not the highest available resolution for Mars terrain in Orbiter. I think the default is "level 8" and there is also a more detailed "level 10" version. But that version is something like 175 megabytes and can take a long time to load, so I usually don't use it.

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