Mars 2020 Rover
Global CTX Mosaic of Mars
Polar Science
Planetary GIS
GCM/GIS Integration
3D Drone Mapping
High-Resolution Gravity
4K 3D Visualization
Mission Involvement
The Bruce Murray Laboratory for Planetary Visualization is a remote sensing facility within the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology that specializes in reconstructing the histories of polar and planetary surfaces and enables terrestrial remote sensing and field projects. The Murray Lab specializes in the generation of massive data sets that facilitate the analysis of planetary surfaces. We provide support for NASA planetary missions, arctic field activities, and a host of other terrestrial data visualization projects, including production and rendering of ultra-high-resolution gravity models, topographic models, and cm-scale drone imaging and topographic modeling of field sites. We also provide a gateway to existing facilities like the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST). The Murray Lab strives to achieve massive goals with less hardware and more innovative and efficient software. Students have access to all resources in the Murray Lab, including a 60-core Linux server with 384 GB of memory and ~300 TB of storage, an 84” 4K resolution LED display, and high-powered workstations for drone image processing, high-resolution morphometric analysis of field samples, and geospatial analysis.


Bruce Murray was a pioneer of planetary science who was a member of the Caltech GPS faculty from 1963 until his retirement in 2002. He was also the director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) from 1976 until 1982. For more information, please visit here.

For more information about the Murray Lab or to schedule a tour, please contact Jay Dickson at jdickson@caltech.edu.

Mars 2020 Rover

Please visit our primary site for the Mars 2020 landing site data.

The Murray Lab participated in the second Landing Site Working Group (LSWG) for the Mars 2020 Rover project. This included preparation of hundreds of GB of seamless mosaics and high-resolution DEMs from HiRISE imagery. These data were helpful for specialists and non-specialists alike on the LSWG as the final sites were evaluated, with all mosaics streamable in Google Mars. This included dynamic 3D visualizations that were presented to NASA administrators who ultimately chose Jezero crater as the site for Mars 2020's primary mission. These data are all publicly available here and will be used extensively for primary mission planning in Jezero and potential extended mission planning in Northeast Syrtis/Midway. More information about the Mars 2020 project can be found here.
Global CTX Mosaic of Mars

Please visit our primary site for the Global CTX mosaic of Mars.

The Murray Lab is currently undertaking construction of the largest image ever made, a 5 m/px global mosaic of Mars using imagery acquired by the Context Camera (CTX) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). CTX has achieved nearly global coverage with broadly consistent illumination conditions, such that a global mosaic of > 100,000 CTX images is now possible. We are constructing it using cutting-edge techniques of non-destructive image processing that allow for full traceability of the final mosaic, allowing users to know where their data come from. This is critical for proper interpretation, instant access to the original data that comprise the mosaic, and efficiency while quality controlling the mosaic. Non-destructive processing is also considerably more efficient than traditional destructive processing, allowing us to create the mosaic entirely within the Murray Lab without reliance on high-performance computing. The first beta release of the entire mosaic can be found here. More information about our mosaicking process can be found here, while more information about CTX itself can be found here.
Polar Science
The Murray Lab is actively involved in both Arctic and Antarctic projects to help document the surface manifestation of climate forces at the Earth's poles. The Murray Lab provides access to satellite imaging, large-scale topographic models, and is responsible for time-lapse imaging at polar field sites.

Murray Lab time-lapse station in arctic Alaska, Summer 2022.

Warming of the arctic manifests as increased bank erosion of rivers that threaten native communities. The Murray Lab provides time-lapse monitoring stations that document this process in high spatial and temporal resolution, and the software to correlate surface activity with met station data to determine the climatic force responsible. This is brand new research that will be continued through 2026.

Our arctic work complements our work in the Antarctic, where extremely dry and cold conditions produce the most Mars-like environment on Earth in the <1% of Antarctica not covered by ice, specifically the McMurdo Dry Valleys. The day-to-day stability of the Dry Valleys makes surface changes difficult to observe, but time-lapse imaging reveals previously invisible processes that inform us of how this polar desert evolves.

Time-lapse imaging is a powerful way of documenting modification of planetary surfaces, particularly visualizing processes that act at rates too slow for observation through traditional field methods. In the Murray Lab, we are capable of deploying weather-proof imaging systems that can operate without human intervention for over a year in extreme climates, like Antarctica (above). Our cameras typically image at a frequency of once every five minutes for months at a time, providing high spatial and temporal resolution. Further, we have software that synchronizes time-lapse imagery with meteorological data to determine which environmental forces directly lead to surface modification. For published examples of this technique, see here and here.
Planetary GIS
The Murray Lab maintains a 100TB geospatial database of remote sensing data sets from Mercury, Venus, the Moon, the Earth, Mars and Ceres. All data are immediately accessible for visualization, analysis and additional processing within a variety of GIS software packages. We specialize in high-volume quantitative integration of diverse data sets including visible/NIR imagery, topography, gravity and radar sounding. These products are integrated with in-situ data acquired during fieldwork and with rovers/landers on other planetary bodies. Above, a sequence of Low-Altitude Mapping Orbit (LAMO) imagery of Ceres from the DAWN spacecraft's Framing Camera are added to a GIS project, and draped with a digital elevation model (DEM) derived from stereo imagery of the surface.
Global Climate Model (GCM) / Geographic Information System (GIS) Integration
Global Climate Models (GCMs) are an essential tool for quantitatively characterizing past climates while also making predictions for the climatic evolution of the Earth, Mars, Venus, Titan and Pluto. Historically, output from GCMs have been challenging to visualize and integrate with other data sets. We have developed software to qualitatively (see video above) and quantitatively (see figure below) integrate GCM outputs with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that allow for direct hypothesis testing of climate-related features. The video above shows an edited rendition of one Mars year, plotting surface pressure in color with surface temperature (> 273K) in contours. Climate related features (gullies) are mapped in black in the southern hemisphere, and we can use this technique to see if their locations surpass triple point conditions for H2O. Each instance above the triple point is counted and this can be plotted, as shown in the figure below. For more information, click here.
3D Drone Mapping


The Murray Lab manages a fleet of drones that students, faculty and staff of GPS can use for field work. Cm-resolution Digital Elevation Models with orthorectified imagery can be generated using multi-GPU photometric processing of overlapping imagery, as well as 4k-resolution image and video analysis and annotation. Our fleet includes a DJI Matrice 600, capable of flying a payload up to 15 kg, including our 270-band hyperpsectral Headwall imaging system. Repeat drone surveys can be used to make cm-scale difference maps of field sites to quantify deformation and erosional/depositional activity. The Murray Lab provides end-to-end training, hardware and software for all GPS drone operations.


High-Resolution Gravity
The Murray Lab hosts a GIS-ready 200 m/px gravity model of the Earth's continental crust, produced by the Western Australia Geodesy Group at Curtin University. This model uses satellite data, primarily from the GRACE mission, to determine the distribution of mass within the crust. To facilitate the utilization of these data in geophysical models, we have created a web-interface where x/y/z data can be extracted as a comma-delimited file (.csv). Above is a rendering of the Ouachita gravity low within the Arkoma Basin, straddling the border of Oklahoma and Arkansas, USA, draped over 30 m/px shaded relief terrain derived from ASTER topography.
4K 3D Visualization
The centerpiece of the Murray Lab is an active-stereo 84" 4K-resolution LED display. This allows for immersive exploration of planetary landscapes in ultra-high-resolution 3D by groups as large as 15 people, facilitating collaborative engagement with high volumes of 3D data sets. Unlike traditional red/blue anaglyph stereo analysis, active stereo allows for the 3D visualization of color imagery, critical for assessing the mineralogic composition of planetary crusts.
Mission Involvement
The Murray Lab contributes to NASA missions by providing data-processing and visualization expertise. Most recently, the Murray Lab has served as the home of the Science Data System for Lunar Trailblazer, a NASA SiMPLEX mission to the Moon, expected to launch in 2023. The SDS is responsible for the end-to-end pipeline of data from the spacecraft to scientifically viable products for analysis by the rest of the science team and the planetary science community. The SDS also developed the targeting interface used by the team and the broader community to input regions of interest to be observed by both imaging systems on board.

The Murray Lab also serves as a workspace for interns from Caltech and Pasadena City College who have made important contributions to the mission, including developing our targeting web-viewer, and our data co-registration algorithm.




jdickson@caltech.edu