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Global Mars Photomosaics Created for Microsoft Worldwide Telescope

The Intelligent Robotics Group, in collaboration with Microsoft Research, has produced the highest resolution 3D digital globe of Mars ever made as part of the latest release of the Microsoft Worldwide Telescope. The global photo mosaics contain 74,000 images from the Mars Global Surveyor's Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC), and more than 13,000 high-resolution images of Mars taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. Each individual HiRISE image contains more than a billion pixels. The mosaics are displayed over 3D rendered terrain and are built using a combination of Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) measurements and elevation models reconstructed from stereo image pairs.

In order to provide users with a seamless experience, IRG’s Mapmakers team sub-sampled each high-resolution image and terrain model multiple times and then divided the map into 1024-pixel tiles at each resolution level. The Worldwide Telescope client retrieves and loads only the tiles in the user’s field of view at any given time. This allows users to explore the surface of Mars at up to full-instrument resolution without needing to wait for entire gigapixel images to load. The image tiles, which contain about 15 terabytes of information in total, are served to the user directly from Ames. That service is running on NASA’s Nebula cloud computing infrastructure, which was also used to process the images and generate the tiles. Assembling the final HiRISE mosaic took 14 days on 114 of Nebula’s CPU core processors.

BACKGROUND: NASA and Microsoft are collaborating to make NASA’s astronomical and planetary data accessible in Microsoft’s Worldwide Telescope, which blends software and Web 2.0 services to stitch together terabytes of high-resolution images of celestial bodies and displays them in a way that relates to their actual position in the sky. Users can seamlessly pan and zoom through the solar system, galaxy, and beyond, or take advantage of a growing number of guided tours hosted by astronomers and educators from major universities and planetariums.

PROGRAM FUNDING: Microsoft (Space Act Agreement)

DEVELOPMENT TEAM: Michael Broxton, Michael Lundy, Ted Scharff, and Ross Beyer.

Contact: Terry Fong

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