Mission Areas

Astrogeology

Programs L2 Landing Page

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

Detailed subsection of an icy scarp on Mars
January 12, 2018

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.  

This HiRISE image cutout shows Recurring Slope Lineae in Tivat crater on Mars in enhanced color.
November 20, 2017

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.

Full-Circle Vista from Naukluft Plateau on Mars
July 3, 2017

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.

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USGS science for a changing world logo
Date Published: March 2, 2016

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.

USGS science for a changing world logo
Date Published: March 2, 2016

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.

USGS science for a changing world logo
Date Published: March 2, 2016

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.

USGS science for a changing world logo
Date Published: March 2, 2016

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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USGS science for a changing world logo
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.

USGS science for a changing world logo
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.

USGS science for a changing world logo
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.

USGS science for a changing world logo
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

USGS science for a changing world logo
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.

USGS science for a changing world logo
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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March 7, 2016

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.

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Broad view of an icy scarp on Mars
2017 (approx.)

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
2017 (approx.)

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

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

2017 (approx.)

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

October 20, 2017

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

August 31, 2017

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

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 global view yet of Pluto’s surface using New Horizons data. It includes topography data of the hemisphere visible to New Horizons during the spacecraft’s closest approach. The topography is derived from digital stereo-image mapping tools that measure the parallax – or the difference in the apparent relative positions – of features on the surface obtained at different viewing angles during the encounter. Scientists use these parallax displacements of high and low terrain to estimate landform heights.

The mosaic is available in Equirectangular projection at an equatorial pixel scale of 300 meters per pixel. The ISIS3 cube in original 32bit file format is available from the ancillary section.

This map was produced using radii of 1188.3 kilometers for Pluto.

Reference: Moore, J.M., et al., 2016, The Geology of Pluto and Charon Through the Eyes of New Horizons, Science, Vol. 351, Issue 6279, pp. 1284-1293, DOI: 10.1126/science.aad7055, URL: https://arxiv.org/abs/1604.05702

2017 (approx.)

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 unit is a large landslide that brought rocks from higher up on Ceti Mensa down into this area.

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 USGS. 

May 5, 2016

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

Geological map of Mars
July 14, 2014

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, and interpretation in support of geologic mapping. In particular, the precise topographic mapping now available has enabled consistent morphologic portrayal of the surface for global mapping (whereas previously used visual-range image bases were less effective, because they combined morphologic and albedo information and, locally, atmospheric haze). Also, thermal infrared image bases used for this map tended to be less affected by atmospheric haze and thus are reliable for analysis of surface morphology and texture at even higher resolution than the topographic products.

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Detailed subsection of an icy scarp on Mars
January 12, 2018

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.  

This HiRISE image cutout shows Recurring Slope Lineae in Tivat crater on Mars in enhanced color.
November 20, 2017

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.

Full-Circle Vista from Naukluft Plateau on Mars
July 3, 2017

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.

Three-dimensional view of the west Ceti Mensa area looking toward the southeast.
May 12, 2017

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.

USGS
October 20, 2016

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. 

This new global geologic map of Mars depicts the most thorough representation of the “Red Planet’s” surface.
May 27, 2016

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.

An image of Hi'iaka Montes and Hi'iaka Patera on Jupiter's volcanic moon Io.
May 19, 2016

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.

Topographic Map of Mercury
May 6, 2016

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.

Image: Candor Colles of Candor Chasma, Mars
December 12, 2014

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