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A new video uses thousands of images to create a map of Mars

A new video uses thousands of images to create a map of Mars

For the last 12 years, NASA’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken thousands of pictures of Mars – tens of thousands. In total, it has captured well over 50,000 images of the Martian surface from orbit, giving us a detailed map of Mars, including geological formations.

Despite all the coverage, however, the images aren’t easy to view. They were designed to be viewed in 3D using specific glasses, and the goal of the HiRISE project was to give researchers (and space nerds with access) a sense of Mars’ topography. The images are therefore ideal for 3D and the depth it can provide, but not so much for still images.

In the absence of 3D glasses, movement and dimension can give a sense of the Martian landscape, but the HiRISE images needed to be assembled in a coherent and logical fashion. The problem is that the images weren’t meant to be seen as a whole, rather individual segments. That’s where Finnish filmmaker Jan Fröjdman came in.

Over the course of three months, Fröjdman assembled the HiRISE images using 33,000 reference points. It was painstaking work, and it had to all be done by hand. It was a massive undertaking, but the results are incredible. The originals were also all taken in black and white, so he adjusted the coloring as well.

“The colors in this film are false because the anaglyph images are based on grayscale images. I have therefore color graded the clips,” Fröjdman wrote. “But I have tried to be moderate doing this. The light regions in the clips are yellowish and the dark regions bluish. The clips from the polar regions (the last clips in the film) have a white-blue tone.There are a lot of opinions and studies of what the natural colors on Mars might be. But the dark regions of dust often seems to have a bluish tone.”

The video begins with an approach from the direction of Mars’ moon Phobos and continues onto the surface of the Red(ish) Planet. This is meant to be a labor of love more than a scientific endeavor and you can check it out below.

A FICTIVE FLIGHT ABOVE REAL MARS from Jan Fröjdman on Vimeo.

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