Mapping the geomorphology of Sputnik Planum

“Looking at the surface of a planet or moon for the first time can be bewildering, particularly when confronted by a variety of terrains and landforms. This is certainly what NASA’s New Horizons team felt when we received the first close-up pictures of Pluto after the flyby in July 2015. None of us were expecting to see such a diverse range of landforms like mountains and glaciers of exotic ice on such a small, cold and distant world.

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Call for maps: Mars Exploration Zone Map Design Competition

Update: Results will be posted early next week (first second week of October).

International call for mapping candidate 2030s human landing sites on Mars.


What kind of map is needed to best aid human explorers of Mars? Design Exploration Zone maps and participate in planning the first human mission to Mars.

This call is open to students, cartographers, and graphic artists from all countries.


The 2030s is the target decade for the first human visit to Mars as planned by NASA. In 2015, 47 landing sites or Exploration Zones (EZ), each 200 km in diameter, have been proposed by the planetary science community. These should be mapped in high detail in the forthcoming years to enable proper comparison of the 47 sites and the selection of the 1 finalist.

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Europeans map the geology of Mercury

The BepiColombo team is preparing a geological map of Mercury in several quadrangles in Italy and the UK, involving PhD students, postdocs and one undergraduate student.

While USGS is now publishing the MESSENGER team’s global geologic map of Mercury, in 1:15M scale, last year, employing three mappers, one for each quadrangle, the BepiColombo team have completed the 1:3M mapping of a little more than one-fifth of the surface of Mercury in three sheets.


Work in progress: The boundary between the H03 and H04 quadrangles has yet to be checked.

We spoke to Valentina Galluzzi and asked her to give us an insight into the mapping process. Galluzzi told us that they are working thanks to the BepiColombo mission related funds. Beside the active mappers, the PI, Co-PI, Co-I and associates of the SIMBIO-SYS team and the BepiColombo Surface and Composition Working Group also support the project. “We need a full synergy of geologists, astrophysicists and engineers in order to have a complete grasp of the data that we are using” – Galluzzi says.

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USGS Map of the Reull Vallis Region, Mars


Here is another piece of art from USGS. Psychedelic in its layout, it is faithful to the USGS tradition of producing accurate and impressive maps. Any magazine designer of the 1970s would have envied this layout, resulted from the orginal shapes of image data available. Reull Vallis, East of Hellas Basin, have many untold stories, and this map helps in reconstructing the past events as well as pleasing the eye of the investigator.