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LOOK: Map Of Mars' Gravity Illuminates Planet's Interior

A Martian gravity map shows the Tharsis volcanoes and surrounding flexure. The white areas in the center are higher-gravity regions produced by the massive Tharsis volcanoes, and the surrounding blue areas are lower-gravity regions that may be cracks in the crust (lithosphere). i

A Martian gravity map shows the Tharsis volcanoes and surrounding flexure. The white areas in the center are higher-gravity regions produced by the massive Tharsis volcanoes, and the surrounding blue areas are lower-gravity regions that may be cracks in the crust (lithosphere). MIT/UMBC-CRESST/GSFC via NASA hide caption

toggle caption MIT/UMBC-CRESST/GSFC via NASA
A Martian gravity map shows the Tharsis volcanoes and surrounding flexure. The white areas in the center are higher-gravity regions produced by the massive Tharsis volcanoes, and the surrounding blue areas are lower-gravity regions that may be cracks in the crust (lithosphere).

A Martian gravity map shows the Tharsis volcanoes and surrounding flexure. The white areas in the center are higher-gravity regions produced by the massive Tharsis volcanoes, and the surrounding blue areas are lower-gravity regions that may be cracks in the crust (lithosphere).

MIT/UMBC-CRESST/GSFC via NASA

NASA has released a new gravity map of Mars, providing a detailed look at the Red Planet's surface and revealing new information about what lies beneath it.

The map was made by tracking subtle variations in the planet's gravitational pull on orbiting spacecraft. As NASA explains: "The pull will be a bit stronger over a mountain, and slightly weaker over a canyon."

NASA YouTube

Using this technology, it's possible to look inside a planet "just as a doctor uses an X-ray to see inside a patient," Antonio Genova of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was lead author of a paper on Mars' gravity, said in a NASA press release.

And the NASA release says this improved view confirms that "Mars has a liquid outer core of molten rock." The researchers determined this by "analyzing tides in the Martian crust and mantle caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and the two moons over Mars."

A map of Martian gravity looking down on the North Pole (center). White and red are areas of higher gravity; blue indicates areas of lower gravity. i

A map of Martian gravity looking down on the North Pole (center). White and red are areas of higher gravity; blue indicates areas of lower gravity. MIT/UMBC-CRESST/GSFC via NASA hide caption

toggle caption MIT/UMBC-CRESST/GSFC via NASA
A map of Martian gravity looking down on the North Pole (center). White and red are areas of higher gravity; blue indicates areas of lower gravity.

A map of Martian gravity looking down on the North Pole (center). White and red are areas of higher gravity; blue indicates areas of lower gravity.

MIT/UMBC-CRESST/GSFC via NASA

The map also provides new details about the Red Planet's ice caps. NASA says it was able to use data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to determine "that when one hemisphere experiences winter, approximately 3 to 4 trillion tons of carbon dioxide freezes out of the atmosphere onto the northern and southern polar caps, respectively."

Scientists say the more detailed knowledge of Mars' surface and gravitational dynamics will also assist in future missions to the planet's orbit.

A map of Martian gravity looking down at the South Pole (center).

A map of Martian gravity looking down at the South Pole (center). MIT/UMBC-CRESST/GSFC via NASA hide caption

toggle caption MIT/UMBC-CRESST/GSFC via NASA

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