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The Context Camera (CTX) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been quite busy, prompting Google Earth to let its users take a better virtual trip to the red planet. The search giant has always had maps of Mars as part of its Google Earth app since 2009, but images were very low-res and had a yeah-well-so-what feeling to it.
Google has now updated a large amount of these images to high-res from the CTX. For a comparison, images of cities on earth are covered with a resolution of 50ft per pixel to as low as 12ft per pixel. New images of Mars are now 20ft per pixel, and included in these virtual tours, are images of the four finalist landing sites that NASA planned for its Curiosity Rover. Google Mars is included in the free Google Earth app via a little icon in the menu.
The update that will probably entice users the most is the option to switch on a CTX mosaic which will allow users to zoom in on high-definition images. Ryan Anderson, planetary scientist for Curiosity’s ChemCam team, said on his blog: “this is how easy it should be to use planetary data. Google Earth is still not quite up to the task for a lot of scientific purposes, but it is the best way I know of to quickly view Mars data, and it is a treasure trove for anyone with even a passing interest in Mars. So go take a look and get lost in the phenomenal data that we have from the Red Planet.”
Google Earth is downloadable here.