It’s a new way of looking at the Red Planet.
By stacking and matching pictures of the same area taken at different angles, University College London scientists have figured out how to see objects as small as 5 cm from 25-cm resolution images collected from an orbiter around Mars. Their description of the new technique, called Super-Resolution Restoration, was published in Planetary and Space Science.
“The resolution of 25 cm is not high enough to view features such as individual rocks with diameters less than 0.75 m or see the types of sedimentary features that Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity has found in rover-based imagery,” wrote Jan-Peter Muller and Yu Tao, both of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, in their study.
The scientists used images taken by NASA’s HiRISE camera, which is carried aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
According to the University College London, the surface of Mars is sluggish when it comes to changing, taking between decades and millions of years to transform. This means scientists can capture a variety of images from a single location over a period of years and know the images will be consistent.
The scientists applied their technique to stacks of between four and eight images.
One of the areas the authors focused their sights on is believed to be the landing site of the European Space Agency’s Beagle-2. The lander that was successfully deployed but deemed a failure after it landed on the Martian surface and failed to communicate with Earth.
The images were provided by University of Leicester’s John Bridges. The initial images showed a white splotch among the Martian terrain, but with the new technique, the white splotch took on more definition, revealing a Y-shape, according to The Guardian.
Other revitalized images included the planet’s ancient lakebeds discovered by Curiosity, and tracks from NASA’s Spirit rover.
Muller told The Guardian that the new images of the Martian landscape allow researchers to see the features a rover would see from five meters away.
“We could do this for the moon and we can do this in the future for Europa and Ganymede,” he said to the media outlet. “It opens up a new way of being able to see features that we would see if we were walking on the surface.”
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