MARSWEB: A GIS based web 2.0 mapping application to
measure impact craters on the surface of Mars.
C. Vargas (1), J.-P. Muller (2) and J.G. Morley (3)
(1) Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London, UK, (2) Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University
College London, UK, (3) Centre for Geospatial Science, University of Nottingham, UK
(email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com)
A open source web-based mapping application has
been developed to allow both professional and
amateur geologists to participate in a large-scale
project to map craters on extra-terrestrial bodies,
starting with the planet Mars. The context is the
dating of the surface of Mars which can be retrieved
using crater size frequency distributions (Kim et al.,
2005) or crater 3D shape (Kim and Muller, 2009)
using Web 2.0. This is based on sharing information
dynamically and interactively over the Internet, and
has a huge potential in the search for the best answer.
We describe the development of a GIS-based Web
2.0 rich internet mapping application, MarsWeb
(http://marsweb.net) to identify and measure the
shape of impact craters of Mars interactively. The
system provides a generic framework for users, both
professional and amateur, to engage actively in
mapping Mars by creating, sharing, aggregating and
using crater information in a variety of formats that
work in traditional GIS and planetary software.
Due to the increasing use of web technologies and
the availability of OGC compliant web mapping
services, web based mapping applications are
becoming popular tools to generate knowledge in
online communities. Internet users can contribute
cartographic content and easily create, modify, and
share geographic information.
This opportunity offers the scientific community new
ways to collaborate with each other and share their
research results, opening up the possibility as well as
for amateur users to be engaged in planetary mapping
We first describe the general Mars Web multi-layered
architecture used to provide the foundation to
develop MarsWeb. The second section presents the
key features of the application. In the final section we
present an analysis of the results obtained and
summarise the key conclusions of this work.
2. MarsWeb Architecture
The open source MarsWeb architecture follows a
generic interactive web mapping application.
Underlying the application is a relational database for
metadata and pointers to data, some application logic
in the middle, and a user interface layer at the top.
The database is implemented in PostgreSQL/PostGIS
with a file-based storage system (MSSL Image Group
Server) at the bottom, a logic application written in
J2EE for Enterprise Applications in the middle, and a
user interface layer implemented using ExtJS plus
Openlayers at the top. Figure 1 shows the MarsWeb
system architecture, which makes use of a set of open
source components, each fulfilling a particular
functional role. Measurements can be exported into
shapefiles, readable by most standalone GIS systems
as well as the Freie Universität Berlin isochron crater
Size Frequency Distribution plotting system (Michael
& Neukum, 2009). The University of Minnesota Map
Server (UMMS) provides the map serving for WMS
(Web Map Service PNG files) and WCS (geotiff
3. MarsWeb Application
Taking advantage of OGC standards-oriented
architecture, the system is able to access layers from
distributed map services, including cascaded WMS
services from colleagues such as the onmars server at
JPL (JPL onmars), the PIGWAD system at USGS
(Hare & Tanaka, 2001) or the J-MARS system at
ASU (Viviano and Moersch, 2010).
Vol. 5, EPSC2010-881, 2010
European Planetary Science Congress 2010
Figure 1: MarsWeb Architecture
MarsWeb allows the creation of fused views from in-
house and cascaded WMS services in order to be able
to create new views of the maps by using WMS layer
transparency. Users can draw simple impact crater
boundaries with minimal manual input or can import
previously measured craters from shapefile or text
files; they also can indicate characteristics of each
crater via the generation of tags. After creating their
own crater catalogues, users can share these crater
measurements with colleagues or the entire online
community. Finally the system provides two basic
crater analysis functionalities: Plot Crater Profiles
and Plot Crater Count Size-Frequency Distribution.
Several screenshots are presented in Figure 2.
There is an increasing need to communicate both to
scientistific colleagues who are involved in Mars
science, or others who would like to get involved,
regarding mapping results. The Mars science
community needs to increase its multi-disciplinary
approach to Mars science, by increasing the ability to
pull in scientists who are not Mars specialists.
In this context, Mars, MarsWeb has been developed
as a Rich Internet Mapping Application to allow both
professional and amateur geologists to participate in
a large-scale web-GIS project to map craters on
extra-terrestrial bodies, starting with the planet Mars.
This combination of tools and frameworks enables
the integration of sophisticated cartography, robust
map services, and new geographic information
visualization techniques in the continuously changing
Internet environment, for the purpose of mapping
craters of Mars.
Figure 2: Upper Panel: measured craters in red
superimposed on a hill-shaded and colourised MOLA
DTM. Middle panel: layers can be cascaded and
combined using transparency (opacity) alpha layer.
Lower Panel: Crater height Profiles.
Funding from STFC (PP/ E002366/1) is gratefully
Hare, T., Tanaka, K.L., 2001. Planetary interactive GIS-on-
the-web analyzable database (PIGWAD). The 20th
International Cartographic Conference, Beijing,
JPL Onmars WMS server at http://onmars.jpl.nasa.gov/
Kim, J. R., Muller, J-P., Morley, J.G. et al. (2005).
"Automated crater detection, a new tool for Mars
cartography and chronology." Photogrammetric
Engineering And Remote Sensing 71(10): 1205-1217
Kim, J.-R. and J.-P. Muller, 2009: Multi-resolution
topographic data extraction from Martian stereo
imagery. Planetary and Space Science, 57, 2095-
Viviano, C. and J. Moersch, 2010: Using JMARS as a
Teaching Tool in Undergraduate Planetary Courses. 41st
Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. see