Mapping Mars: The Geology of the Red Planet
View the high resolution version of this incredible map by clicking here
For centuries, Mars has been mythically defined by its characteristic red appearance.
In Babylonian astronomy, Mars was named after Nergal, the deity of fire, war, and destruction. In Chinese and Japanese texts, the planet was known as 火星, the fire star.
Although this unique reddish hue has been a key defining characteristic of Mars in culture for centuries, today we now know that it’s the iron oxide soil of the Martian landscape that makes it the “Red Planet” – and that there is much more to Mars than its color upon closer observation.
Above, today’s map, posted and created by Reddit user /hellofromthemoon, brings together the data from centuries of observation and the numerous missions to the Red Planet to map out its geology on a grand scale.
A Red Dot in the Sky
Egyptian astronomers first observed the planet Mars four thousand years ago and named it “Horus-the-red.” Babylonian astronomers marked its course through the night sky to track the passage of time. But it was not until 1610, when Galileo Galilei witnessed Mars with his own eyes through a telescope, that Mars was revealed as a whole other world.
Over the centuries with improving technology, a succession of astronomers observed and crudely mapped out everything from polar ice caps to yellow clouds, and white and dark spots denoting varying elevations across the Martian surface. Some of the earliest maps of Mars date to 1831. But there is only so much you can accurately observe from the surface of the Earth.
On July 14, 1965, NASA successfully received the first up-close images of Mars from the Mariner 4 spacecraft, passing within 9,844 kilometers (6,117 miles) of Mars’ surface. Mariner 4 captured the image of a large ancient crater and confirmed the existence of a thin atmosphere composed largely of carbon dioxide.
Since then, four space agencies have successfully made it to Mars: NASA, the former Soviet Union space program, the European Space Agency and the Indian Space Research Organization. From orbital satellites to surface exploration with robots, each successful mission has brought back important data to develop an evolving picture of the planet.
Here is a complete list of both the successful and failed missions to Mars.
On Mars, we see volcanoes, canyons, and impact basins much like the ones on Earth. The yellows scattered across the map indicate meteor impacts of varying size while the swaths of red indicate volcanoes and their associated lava flows. The varying colors of brown indicate the cratered highlands and midlands that make up most of the southern hemisphere.
The planet appears asymmetric. Most of the southern hemisphere is heavily cratered and resembles the moon’s highlands. In contrast, the northern hemisphere is sparsely cratered and has many large volcanoes.
Mars is approximately one-half the diameter of the Earth, but both planets have the same amount of dry land. This is because the current surface of Mars has no liquid water.
Mars and Earth are very different planets when it comes to temperature, size, and atmosphere, but geologic processes on the two planets are eerily similar. The sheer size of some landforms on Mars would shadow over similar features on Earth because of the lack of water erosion. This lack of erosion has preserved billion year-old geologic features.
The tallest mountain on Mars and in the solar system is Olympus Mons, and it is two and a half times taller than Mt. Everest. A Martian canyon system, called Valles Marineris, is the length of the entire continental United States and three times deeper than the Grand Canyon.
Mars Colony: Location, Location, Location
The first step to building a colony is to figure out where the best chance of survival is. For Mars, some researchers have identified the planet’s poles, which contain millennia-old ice deposits. These are thought to contain large amounts of ice, which mars settlers could extract and turn into liquid water.
The poles also host other natural resources, such as carbon dioxide, iron, aluminum, silicon and sulfur, which could be used to make glass, brick and plastic. Furthermore, the planet’s atmosphere contains enough hydrogen and methanol for fuel.
Closing the Distance
The map above represents the culmination of centuries of work which we are lucky enough to view here on a computer, conveniently online for us to appreciate and wonder what life’s like on the surface of Mars.
Who knows what more exploration will reveal.
Mapped: Top Countries by Tourist Spending
How much do your vacations contribute to your destination of choice? This visualization shows the countries that receive the most tourist spending.
Mapped: Top Countries by Tourist Spending
Many people spend their days looking forward to their next getaway. But do you know exactly how much these vacation plans contribute economically to your chosen destination?
Today’s visualization from HowMuch.net highlights the countries in which tourists spend the most money. Locations have been resized based on spending amounts, which come from the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
Oh, The Places Tourists Will Go
Across the different regions, Europe’s combined tourist spending dominates at $570 billion. Easy access to closely-located countries, both via rail networks and a shared currency, may be a reason why almost 710 million visitors toured the region in 2018.
Asia-Pacific, which includes Australia and numerous smaller islands, saw the greatest growth in tourism expenditures. Total spending reached $435 billion in 2018—a 7% year-over-year increase, from 348 million visitors. Not surprisingly, some areas such as Macao (SAR) tend to rely heavily on tourists as a primary economic driver.
Here’s how other continental regions fared, in terms of tourist spending and visitors:
Total expenditures: $333 billion
Total visitors: 216 million
Expenses per visitor: $1,542
- Middle East
Total expenditures: $73 billion
Total visitors: 60 million
Expenses per visitor: $1,216
Total expenditures: $38 billion
Total visitors: 67 million
Expenses per visitor: $567
Of course, these numbers only paint a rudimentary picture of global tourism, as they vary greatly even within these regions. Let’s look closer at the individual country data for 2018, compared to previous years.
The Top Tourist Hotspots, By Country
It seems that many tourists are gravitating towards the same destinations, as evidenced by both the number of arrivals and overall expenditures for 2017 and 2018 alike.
|Country||2018 Spending||2018 Arrivals||Country||2017 Spending||2017 Arrivals|
|1. U.S. 🇺🇸||$214.5B||79.6M||1. U.S. 🇺🇸||$210.7B||74.8M|
|2. Spain 🇪🇸||$73.8B||82.8M||2. Spain 🇪🇸||$68B||81.8M|
|2. France 🇫🇷||$67.4B||89.4M||3. France 🇫🇷||$60.7B||86.9M|
|4. Thailand 🇹🇭||$63B||38.3M||4. Thailand 🇹🇭||$57.5B||35.4M|
|5. UK 🇬🇧||$51.9B||36.3M||5. UK 🇬🇧||51.2B||37.7M|
|6. Italy 🇮🇹||$49.3B||62.1M||6. Italy 🇮🇹||$44.2B||58.3M|
|7. Australia 🇦🇺||$45B||9.2M||7. Australia 🇦🇺||$41.7B||8.8M|
|8. Germany 🇩🇪||$43B||38.9M||8. Germany 🇩🇪||$39.8B||37.5M|
|9. Japan 🇯🇵||$41.1B||31.2M||9. Macao (SAR) 🇲🇴||$35.6B||17M|
|10. China 🇨🇳||$40.4B||62.9M||10. Japan 🇯🇵||$34.1B||28.6M|
Source: World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
Note that data is for international tourism only and does not include domestic tourism.
The top contenders have remained fairly consistent, as each country brings something unique to the table—from natural wonders to historic and man-made structures.
Where Highest-Spending Tourists Come From
The nationality of tourists also seems to be a factor in these total expenditures. Chinese tourists spent $277 billion internationally in 2018, likely thanks to the increasing consumption of an emerging, affluent middle class.
Interestingly, this amount is almost twice the combined $144 billion that American tourists spent overseas in the same year.
Mapped: The Dramatic Global Rise of Urbanization (1950–2020)
Few global trends have matched the profound impact of urbanization. Today’s map looks back at 70 years of movement in over 1,800 cities.
The Dramatic Global Rise of Urbanization (1950–2020)
In the 21st century, few trends have matched the economic, environmental, and societal impact of rapid urbanization.
A steady stream of human migration out of the countryside, and into swelling metropolitan centers, has shaken up the world’s power dynamic in just decades.
Today’s eye-catching map via Cristina Poiata from Z Creative Labs looks at 70 years of movement and urban population growth in over 1,800 cities worldwide. Where is the action?
Out of the Farms and Into the Cities
The United Nations cites two intertwined reasons for urbanization: an overall population increase that’s unevenly distributed by region, and an upward trend in people flocking to cities.
Since 1950, the world’s urban population has risen almost six-fold, from 751 million to 4.2 billion in 2018. In North America alone, significant urban growth can be observed in the video for Mexico and the East Coast of the United States as this shift takes place.
Over the next few decades, the rural population is expected to plateau and eventually decline, while urban growth will continue to shoot up to six billion people and beyond.
The Biggest Urban Hot-Spots
Urban growth is going to happen all across the board.
Rapidly rising populations in megacities and major cities will be significant contributors, but it’s also worth noting that the number of regional to mid-sized cities (500k to 5 million inhabitants) will swell drastically by 2030, becoming more influential economic hubs in the process.
Interestingly, it’s mainly cities across Asia and Africa — some of which Westerners are largely unfamiliar with — that may soon wield enormous influence on the global stage.
It’s expected that over a third of the projected urban growth between now and 2050 will occur in just three countries: India, China, and Nigeria. By 2050, it is projected that India could add 416 million urban dwellers, China 255 million, and Nigeria 189 million.
Urbanization and its Complications
Rapid urbanization isn’t only linked to an inevitable rise in city populations.
Some megacities are actually experiencing population contractions, in part due to the effects of low fertility rates in Asia and Europe. For example, while the Greater Tokyo area contains almost 38 million people today, it’s expected to shrink starting in 2020.
As rapid urbanization continues to shape the global economy, finding ways to provide the right infrastructure and services in cities will be a crucial problem to solve for communities and organizations around the world. How we deal with these issues — or how we don’t — will set the stage for the next act in the modern economic era.
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