Astrogeology

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The Astrogeology Science Center serves the nation, the international science community, and the general public in the pursuit of new knowledge about our Solar System. The program has participated in analyzing data from numerous missions to planetary bodies, mapping planets, moons, and asteroids, and researching these body’s geologic processes.

News

Date published: March 29, 2018

International Mapping Standards Updated for Planets throughout Solar System

Clarifying Latitude and Longitude for Planets besides Earth

Date published: January 12, 2018

3-D Structure of Buried Ice Sheets on Mars Revealed by High-Resolution Images

For the first time, high-resolution images show the three-dimensional structure of massive ice deposits on Mars. According to an in-depth analysis led by the USGS, the images reveal never-before-observed details about the ice sheets, including that some begin just a few feet below the Martian surface and extend to depths greater than 300 feet.  

Date published: November 20, 2017

Previous Evidence of Water on Mars Now Identified as Grainflows

Dark features previously proposed as evidence for significant liquid water flowing on Mars have now been identified as granular flows, where sand and dust move rather than liquid water, according to a new article published in Nature Geoscience by the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Date published: March 2, 2016

Mission Support

Our scientists work with NASA and other space agencies to lead investigations, select rover landing sites, create geologic maps and cartographic products for numerous spacecraft missions throughout our solar system. Our Astrogeology Science Center continues to provide support for numerous past, present and future space missions.

Date published: March 2, 2016

A Hub for Planetary Research

The USGS Astrogeology Science Center is a hub for planetary research. The center provides guest facilities, labs, and numerous cartographic resources for both the scientific community and the general public. Geologists, archivists, data specialists, and cartographers are employed at the center to assist the planetary science community.

Date published: March 2, 2016

Producing Planetary Maps

The Astrogeology Science Center's mission includes producing planetary maps and cartographic products which reveal topography, geology, topology, image mosaics and more, all made available to the international scientific community and the general public as a national resource.

Date published: March 2, 2016

Research Geology

We study geology, volcanism, astrobiology, dunes, ice and water flow, crater aging, mineral deposits and the make-up of various planetary surfaces. Our research leads to a better understanding of the character of our neighboring planets, the origins of the solar system, and a better comprehension of our own planet, Earth.

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Date published: March 7, 2016

ISIS – The Integrated System for Imagers and Spectrometers

ISIS has many standard image processing operations such as contrast stretch, image algebra, filters, and statistical analysis. Isis operates on both classical two-dimensional images as well as three-dimensional cubes collected from imaging spectrometers. It also has unique capabilities for processing data from NASA spacecraft missions.

Date published: March 7, 2016

PILOT – The Planetary Image LOcator Tool

PILOT is a web based search tool for the Unified Planetary Coordinate (UPC) database of the Planetary Data System. PILOT features SPICE-corrected image locations and searching capabilities using a navigable map, user selectable image constraints, and facilitates bulk downloads and/or image processing using POW.

Date published: March 7, 2016

POW – The Map Projection on the Web

The Map Projection on the Web service was created to help researchers convert raw Planetary Data System images to a science-ready map projected images. The system integrates the Planetary Image LOcator Tool (PILOT) and the Unified Planetary Coordinate (UPC), ISIS3, GDAL, and the Astrogeology processing cluster for its’ processing needs.

Date published: March 7, 2016

Astro Web Maps – Our Web Mapping Services (WMS) and Web Feature Services (WFS)

Astro Web Maps – Our Web Mapping Services (WMS) and Web Feature Services (WFS) are based on Open Geospatial Consortium standards and allow capable mapping clients to view full-resolution planetary mosaicked Basemaps. Services are available for community use and are critical for our Planetary Nomenclature, Planetary Geologic Mapping and PILOT sites

Date published: March 7, 2016

Map-a-Planet 2

Allows existing map-projected (derived) image products to be re-projected, stretched, clipped, and converted into a variety of useful formats. Version 2 allows us to quickly add new mosaics and potentially many other derived science products for conversion and download.

Date published: March 7, 2016

GDAL – The Geospatial Data Abstraction Library

GDAL is a translator library for raster geospatial data formats that is released under an X/MIT style Open Source license by the Open Source Geospatial Foundation. As a library, it presents a single abstract data model for all supported formats. It also comes with a variety of useful commandline utilities for data translation and processing.

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Date published: March 7, 2016

Planetary Geologic Mapping Program

The Planetary Geologic Mapping Program serves the international science community through the production of high-quality and refereed geologic maps of planetary bodies. This program is in coordination between NASA science programs and the USGS Astrogeology Science Center.

Filter Total Items: 209
Year Published: 2018

Ancient Martian aeolian processes and palaeomorphology reconstructed from the Stimson formation on the lower slope of Aeolis Mons, Gale crater, Mars

Reconstruction of the palaeoenvironmental context of Martian sedimentary rocks is central to studies of ancient Martian habitability and regional palaeoclimate history. This paper reports the analysis of a distinct aeolian deposit preserved in Gale crater, Mars, and evaluates its palaeomorphology, the processes responsible for its deposition, and...

Banham, Steve G.; Gupta, Sanjeev; Rubin, David M.; Watkins, Jessica A.; Sumner, Dawn Y.; Edgett, Kenneth S.; Grotzinger, John P.; Lewis, Kevin W.; Edgar, Lauren; Stack, Kathryn M.; Barnes, Robert; Bell, Jame F. III; Day, Mackenzie D.; Ewing, Ryan C.; Lapotre, Mathieu G.A.; Stein, Nathan T.; Rivera-Hernandez, Frances; Vasavada, Ashwin R.
Banham, S. G., Gupta, S., Rubin, D. M., Watkins, J. A., Sumner, D. Y., Edgett, K. S., Grotzinger, J. P., Lewis, K. W., Edgar, L. A., Stack-Morgan, K. M., Barnes, R., Bell, J. F., Day, M. D., Ewing, R. C., Lapotre, M. G.A., Stein, N. T., Rivera-Hernandez, F. and Vasavada, A. R. (2018), Ancient Martian aeolian processes and palaeomorphology reconstructed from the Stimson formation on the lower slope of Aeolis Mons, Gale crater, Mars. Sedimentology. https://doi.org/10.1111/sed.12469

Year Published: 2018

Relaxed impact craters on Ganymede: Regional variation and high heat flows

Viscously relaxed craters provide a window into the thermal history of Ganymede, a satellite with copious geologic signs of past high heat flows. Here we present measurements of relaxed craters in four regions for which suitable imaging exists: near Anshar Sulcus, Tiamat Sulcus, northern Marius Regio, and Ganymede's south pole. We describe a...

Singer, Kelsi N.; Bland, Michael T.; Schenk, Paul M.; McKinnon, William B.
Sing, K. N., Bland, M. T., Schenk, P. M., McKinnon, W. B., 2018. Relaxed impact craters on Ganymede: Regional variation and high heat flows. Icarus 306, 214-224.

Year Published: 2018

Exposed subsurface ice sheets in the Martian mid-latitudes

Thick deposits cover broad regions of the Martian mid-latitudes with a smooth mantle; erosion in these regions creates scarps that expose the internal structure of the mantle.We investigated eight of these locations and found that they expose deposits of water ice that can be >100 meters thick, extending downward from depths as shallow as 1 to...

Dundas, Colin M.; Bramson, Ali M; Ojha, Lujendra; Wray, James J.; Mellon, Michael T.; Byrne, Shane; McEwen, Alfred S.; Putzig, N. E.; Viola, Donna; Sutton, Sarah; Clark, E.; Holt, J.W.
Dundas, C. M., et al. (2018). Exposed subsurface ice sheets in the Martian mid-latitudes. Science, 359, 199-201, doi:10.1126/science.aao1619.

Year Published: 2018

Image simulation and assessment of the colour and spatial capabilities of the Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) on the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter

This study aims to assess the spatial and visible/near-infrared (VNIR) colour/spectral capabilities of the 4-band Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) aboard the ExoMars 2016 Trace Grace Orbiter (TGO). The instrument response functions for the CaSSIS imager was used to resample spectral libraries, modelled spectra and to construct...

Tornabene, Livio L.; Seelos, Frank P.; Pommerol, Antoine; Thomas, Nicolas; Caudill, Christy M.; Becerra, Patricio; Bridges, John C.; Byrne, Shane; Cardinale, Marco; Chojnacki, Matthew; Conway, Susan J.; Cremonese, Gabriele; Dundas, Colin M.; El-Maarry, M. R.; Fernando, Jennifer; Hansen, Candice J.; Hansen, Kayle; Harrison, Tanya N.; Henson, Rachel; Marinangeli, Lucia; McEwen, Alfred S.; Pajola, Maurizio; Sutton, Sarah S.; Wray, James J.
Tornabene, L. L., et al., 2018. Image Simulation and Assessment of the Colour and Spatial Capabilities of the Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) on the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. Space Science Reviews, 214, doi:10.1007/s11214-017-0436-7.

Year Published: 2018

Planetary dune workshop expands to include subaqueous processes

Dune-like structures appear in the depths of Earth’s oceans, across its landscapes, and in the extremities of the solar system beyond. Dunes rise up under the thick dense atmosphere of Venus, and they have been found under the almost unimaginably ephemeral atmosphere of a comet.

Titus, Timothy N.; Bryant, Gerald; Rubin, David M.
Titus, T., D. M. Rubin, and G. Bryant (2018), Planetary dune workshop expands to include subaqueous processes, Eos, 99, https://doi.org/10.1029/2018EO092783. Published on 15 February 2018.

Year Published: 2018

Detecting geothermal anomalies and evaluating LST geothermal component by combining thermal remote sensing time series and land surface model data

This paper explores for the first time the possibilities to use two land surface temperature (LST) time series of different origins (geostationary Meteosat Second Generation satellite data and Noah land surface modelling, LSM), to detect geothermal anomalies and extract the geothermal component of LST, the LSTgt. We hypothesize that in geothermal...

Romaguera, Mireia; Vaughan, R. Greg; Ettema, J.; Izquierdo-Verdiguier, E.; Hecker, C. A.; van der Meer, F.D.

Year Published: 2018

The effects of snow and salt on ice table stability in University Valley, Antarctica

The Antarctic Dry Valleys represent a unique environment where it is possible to study dry permafrost overlaying an ice-rich permafrost. In this paper, two opposing mechanisms for ice table stability in University Valley are addressed: i) diffusive recharge via thin seasonal snow deposits and ii) desiccation via salt deposits in the upper soil...

Williams, Kaj; Heldmann, Jennifer L.; McKay, Christopher P.; Mellon, Michael T.
Williams, K., Heldmann, J., Mckay, C., & Mellon, M. (2017). The effects of snow and salt on ice table stability in University Valley, Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 1-12. doi:10.1017/S0954102017000402

Year Published: 2018

Shaler: in situ analysis of a fluvial sedimentary deposit on Mars

This paper characterizes the detailed sedimentology of a fluvial sandbody on Mars for the first time, and interprets its depositional processes and palaeoenvironmental setting. Despite numerous orbital observations of fluvial landforms on the surface of Mars, ground-based characterization of the sedimentology of such fluvial deposits has not...

Edgar, Lauren; Gupta, Sanjeev; Rubin, David M.; Lewis, Kevin W.; Kocurek, Gary A.; Anderson, Ryan; Bell, James F. ; Dromart, Gilles; Edgett, Kenneth S.; Grotzinger, John P.; Hardgrove, Craig; Kah, Linda C.; LeVeille, Richard A.; Malin, Michael C.; Mangold, Nicholas; Milliken, Ralph E.; Minitti, Michelle; Palucis, Marisa C.; Rice, Melissa; Rowland, Scott K.; Schieber, Juergen; Stack, Kathryn M.; Sumner, Dawn Y.; Wiens, Roger C.; Williams, Rebecca M.E.; Williams, Amy J.
Edgar, L. A., Gupta, S., Rubin, D. M., Lewis, K. W., Kocurek, G. A., Anderson, R. B., Bell, J. F., Dromart, G., Edgett, K. S., Grotzinger, J. P., Hardgrove, C., Kah, L. C., Leveille, R., Malin, M. C., Mangold, N., Milliken, R. E., Minitti, M., Palucis, M., Rice, M., Rowland, S. K., Schieber, J., Stack, K. M., Sumner, D. Y., Wiens, R. C., Williams, R. M.E. and Williams, A. J. (2017), Shaler: In situ analysis of a fluvial sedimentary deposit on Mars. Sedimentology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/sed.12370

Year Published: 2017

Community tools for cartographic and photogrammetric processing of Mars Express HRSC images

The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on the Mars Express orbiter (Neukum et al. 2004) is a multi-line pushbroom scanner that can obtain stereo and color coverage of targets in a single overpass, with pixel scales as small as 10 m at periapsis. Since commencing operations in 2004 it has imaged ~ 77 % of Mars at 20 m/pixel or better. The...

Wu, B.; Di, K.; Oberst, J.; Karachevtseva, I.; Kirk, Randolph L.; Howington-Kraus, Elpitha; Edmundson, Kenneth L.; Redding, Bonnie L.; Galuszka, Donna M.; Hare, Trent M.; Gwinner, K.
Kirk, R.L., Howington-Kraus, E., Edmundson, K., Redding, B., Galuszka, D., Hare, T., and Gwinner, K.: Community tools for cartographic and photogrammetric processing of Mars express HiRISE images, International Archives of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, v. XLII-3/W1, p. 69-76, https://doi.org/10.5194/isprs-archives-XLII-3-W1-69-2017, 2017.

Year Published: 2017

Correcting spacecraft jitter in HiRISE images

Mechanical oscillations or vibrations on spacecraft, also called pointing jitter, cause geometric distortions and/or smear in high resolution digital images acquired from orbit. Geometric distortion is especially a problem with pushbroom type sensors, such as the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument on board the Mars...

Wu, B.; Di, K.; Oberst, J.; Karachevtseva, I.; Sutton, S. S.; Boyd, A.K.; Kirk, Randolph L.; Cook, Debbie; Backer, Jean; Fennema, A.; Heyd, R.; McEwen, A.S.; Mirchandani, S.D.
Sutton, S.S., Boyd, A.K., Kirk, R.L., Cook, D., Backer, J.W., Fennema, A., Heyd, R., McEwen, A.S., and Mirchandani, S.D., 2017, Correcting spacecraft jitter in HiRISE images: International Archives of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, v. XLII-3/W1, p. 141-148, https://doi.org/10.5194/isprs-archives-XLII-3-W1-141-2017.

Year Published: 2017

The interior structure of Ceres as revealed by surface topography

Ceres, the largest body in the asteroid belt (940 km diameter), provides a unique opportunity to study the interior structure of a volatile-rich dwarf planet. Variations in a planetary body's subsurface rheology and density affect the rate of topographic relaxation. Preferential attenuation of long wavelength topography (≥150 km) on Ceres suggests...

Fu, Roger R.; Ermakov, Anton; Marchi, Simone; Castillo-Rogez, Julie C.; Raymond, Carol A.; Hager, Bradford; Zuber, Maria; King, Scott D.; Bland, Michael T.; De Sanctis, Maria Cristina; Preusker, Frank; Park, Ryan S.; Russell, Christopher T.

Year Published: 2017

The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover Mastcam instruments: Preflight and in-flight calibration, validation, and data archiving

The NASA Curiosity rover Mast Camera (Mastcam) system is a pair of fixed-focal length, multispectral, color CCD imagers mounted ~2 m above the surface on the rover's remote sensing mast, along with associated electronics and an onboard calibration target. The left Mastcam (M-34) has a 34 mm focal length, an instantaneous field of view (...

Bell, James F. ; Godber, A.; McNair, S.; Caplinger, M.A.; Maki, J.N.; Lemmon, M.T.; Van Beek, J.; Malin, M.C.; Wellington, D.; Kinch, K.M.; Madsen, M.B.; Hardgrove, C.; Ravine, M.A.; Jensen, E.; Harker, D.; Anderson, Ryan; Herkenhoff, Kenneth E.; Morris, R.V.; Cisneros, E.; Deen, R.G.
Bell, J. F., III et al. (2017), The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover Mastcam instruments: Preflight and in-flight calibration, validation, and data archiving, Earth and Space Science, 4, 396–452, doi:10.1002/2016EA000219.

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Pink Sand Dunes in Utah
February 27, 2018

Pink Dune

This is a photo of a pink sand dune in Utah.

Broad view of an icy scarp on Mars
December 31, 2017

Broad view of an icy scarp on Mars

For the first time, high-resolution images show the three-dimensional structure of massive ice deposits on Mars. 

This NASA HiRISE image shows an icy scarp on Mars in the context of a broader area. 

Detailed subsection of an icy scarp on Mars
December 31, 2017

Detailed subsection of an icy scarp on Mars

For the first time, high-resolution images show the three-dimensional structure of massive ice deposits on Mars. 

This high-resolution NASA HiRISE image shows a detailed subsection of an icy scarp on Mars in enhanced color. 

December 17, 2017

USGS Astrogeology Geologic Map GIS Template

Review of all elements included in the GIS template provided to NASA-funded mappers producing USGS SIM-series planetary geologic maps.

November 30, 2017

Tour of the Planetary Geologic Mapping Python Toolbox

A tour of the Planetary Geologic Mapping Python toolbox, a suite of GIS tools from the Astrogeology Science Center.
 

October 20, 2017

Introduction to GIS Data for ArcMap 10.1 and Higher

An introduction to GIS data using ArcMap 10.1 and higher; intended for planetary geologic mappers. 
 

August 31, 2017

2017 August Evening Public Lecture — Roving on Mars

Roving on Mars: Curiosity's exploration of Gale Crater

* Overview of the Mars Science Laboratory Mission
* Highlights from 5 years of exploring sedimentary environments
* Preview of next steps in Curiosity's climb up Aeolis Mons

Pluto Global Mosaic from New Horizons
July 1, 2017

Pluto Global Mosaic from New Horizons July 2017

On July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made its historic flight through the Pluto system. This detailed, high-quality global mosaic of Pluto was assembled from nearly all of the highest-resolution images obtained by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on New Horizons.

The mosaic is the most detailed and comprehensive...

May 31, 2017

New USGS Maps of Mars Reveal Ancient Oases

Flyover of the southeast Ceti Mensa map. Distinct groups of rock layers, called geologic units, are shaded in different colors, with dark browns representing the oldest rocks and green representing the youngest rocks. All of these rocks formed as wind-blown sand that became trapped in shallow, ephemeral lakes, similar to the wet playas of the desert southwest US. The irregularly-shaped green...

May 5, 2016

First Global Topographic Map of Mercury

An animation of the USGS topographic map of Mercury created using images from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft.

Geological map of Mars
July 14, 2014

Geologic Map of Mars

This global geologic map of Mars, which records the distribution of geologic units and landforms on the planet's surface through time, is based on unprecedented variety, quality, and quantity of remotely sensed data acquired since the Viking Orbiters. These data have provided morphologic, topographic, spectral, thermophysical, radar sounding, and other observations for integration, analysis,...

Attribution: Astrogeology
Filter Total Items: 10
Date published: March 29, 2018

International Mapping Standards Updated for Planets throughout Solar System

Clarifying Latitude and Longitude for Planets besides Earth

Date published: January 12, 2018

3-D Structure of Buried Ice Sheets on Mars Revealed by High-Resolution Images

For the first time, high-resolution images show the three-dimensional structure of massive ice deposits on Mars. According to an in-depth analysis led by the USGS, the images reveal never-before-observed details about the ice sheets, including that some begin just a few feet below the Martian surface and extend to depths greater than 300 feet.  

Date published: November 20, 2017

Previous Evidence of Water on Mars Now Identified as Grainflows

Dark features previously proposed as evidence for significant liquid water flowing on Mars have now been identified as granular flows, where sand and dust move rather than liquid water, according to a new article published in Nature Geoscience by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Date published: July 3, 2017

Guiding Rovers for Safe Mars Exploration

Billions of dollars and a decade worth of research are on the line in the instant that a spacecraft touches down on Mars. When deciding where to land on the planet’s rocky surface, it is essential to analyze potential landing sites and their surface characteristics.

Date published: May 12, 2017

New USGS Maps of Mars Reveal Ancient Oases

A new set of high-resolution geologic maps reveal complex geologic processes that suggest a dynamic, wet environment once existed on early Mars, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Date published: October 20, 2016

Water Detected on Largest Metallic Asteroid in Solar System

Scientists have discovered possible evidence for water-rich minerals on the surface of the largest metallic asteroid in the solar system, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA. 

Date published: May 27, 2016

New Global Geologic Map of Mars

A new global geologic map of Mars –the most thorough representation of the "Red Planet's" surface – has been published by the U.S. Geological Survey. This map provides a framework for continued scientific investigation of Mars as the long-range target for human space exploration.

Attribution: Astrogeology
Date published: May 19, 2016

Understanding How Jupiter’s Volcanic Moon Creates Mountains

Mountains on Io, Jupiter’s volcanic moon, are formed by a unique geologic mechanism not found elsewhere in the solar system, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Date published: May 6, 2016

First Global Topographic Map of Mercury Released

The first topographic map of Mercury was released today by the U.S. Geological Survey, Arizona State University, Carnegie Institute of Washington, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and NASA.

Date published: December 12, 2014

New USGS Map of Mars is Most Detailed One Yet

The U.S. Geological Survey released its highest-resolution geologic map of Mars today, and it is the most detailed representation of the Red Planet to date