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Some really gorgeous work here with these images! ^_^

P.S. Make sure to visit the link at the bottom to see the rest of the image collection!
 
A Living Mars

A conception of an ancient and/or future Mars, flush with oceans, clouds and life.

This is a view of the Western hemisphere with Olympus Mons on the horizon beyond the Tharsis Montes volcanoes and the Valles Marineris canyons near the center. The height of the clouds and atmosphere are largely arbitrary and set for the sake of appearance and coverage over the exaggerated terrain elevations (~10 times elevation exaggeration). The eye is about 10,000 km (~6,200 miles) from the surface. 

The completed model was done in several steps... 

A two dimensional digital elevation model was first rendered in jDem846 (an open-source learning project of mine) using the MRO MOLA 128 pix/deg elevation dataset. In that model, I picked a sea level and scripted it such that terrain at or below that level was flat and blue. 

The resulting model was then brought into GIMP were I painted in land features using a NASA Blue Marble Next Generation image for the source textures.  There is no scientific reasoning behind how I painted it; I tried to envision how the land would appear given certain features or the effects of likely atmospheric climate. For example, I didn’t see much green taking hold within the area of Olympus Mons and the surrounding volcanoes, both due to the volcanic activity and the proximity to the equator (thus a more tropical climate). For these desert-like areas I mostly used textures taken from the Sahara in Africa and some of Australia. Likewise, as the terrain gets higher or lower in latitude I added darker flora along with tundra and glacial ice. These northern and southern areas textures are largely taken from around northern Russia. Tropical and subtropical greens were based on the rainforests of South America and Africa. 

Finally, that image was brought back into jDem846 as a layer to be reapplied to the same MOLA dataset, but rendered as a spherical projection (like Google Earth).  I scripted the model to apply a three-dimensional cloud layer, add an atmosphere, and dampen specular lighting on dry land and under clouds. There are some other scripted tweaks here and there. 

This wasn’t intended as an exhaustive scientific scenario as I’m sure (and expect) some of my assumptions will prove incorrect. I’m hoping at least to trigger the imagination, so please enjoy!

Some of the source images, jDem846 project files and earlier revisions are available here: https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B5gEWNRhmLMTYkEyR3FQY2pjRVk/edit 
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