Scarp at Head of Chasma Boreale
Image above: This view shows sharp detail of a scarp at the head of Chasma Boreale, a large trough cut by erosion into the martian north polar cap and the layered material beneath the ice cap. The picture is a mosaic of two images acquired in January 2005 by the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, using a resolution-enhancing technique called "compensated pitch and roll targeted observation." The camera team considers this the best pair of images yet acquired using that technique.
During each northern summer on Mars, there occurs a narrow window in time of two to three months when conditions are ideal to image the north polar cap at high resolution. Throughout this period, the atmosphere is generally clear over the cap, and the seasonal carbon-dioxide frost from the previous winter and spring has sublimed away, permitting a good view of the surface geology. The two images in this mosaic were acquired during this brief period during the most recent northern summer. Within a few weeks of when these images were acquired, dust storm activity picked up in the north polar region, making the atmosphere too dusty to obtain any more detailed views until late 2006.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS
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Three Years of Monitoring Mars' Atmospheric Dust
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Image above: This movie shows the daily abundance of dust in the martian atmosphere over a period of three full martian years, from April 1999 through February 2005. The Thermal Emission Spectrometer instrument on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter has been tracking the weather on Mars for six years. The infrared spectrum observed by this instrument yields information about the spectral properties of the dust and the temperature of the atmosphere. These two properties can then be used to derive how much dust is in the atmosphere.
Of particular interest are large regional and global dust storms that occur during summer in the southern hemisphere each Mars year. The 2001 storm was by far the largest, lasting over six months (June to October, 2001) and covering the entire planet. The storms in the other two Mars years shown here were much smaller and never covered the planet. The most recent storm season (June 2003 through January 2005) actually had two separate storms, one in June and a second in December. Unlike most large martian dust storms that start in the southern hemisphere, the December storm began in the north and swept toward the equator. Between storms the atmosphere becomes quite clear, with much smaller dust storms scattered throughout the year and over the planet.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/ASU
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Five Years of Monitoring Mars' Daytime Surface Temperatures
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Image above: This movie shows the daytime temperature of the surface of Mars as measured by the Thermal Emission Spectrometer instrument on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter. These temperatures clearly show the growth and retreat of the martian northern and southern polar ice caps. The caps grow in winter and are composed of carbon dioxide ice with temperatures as low as minus 125 degrees Celsius (minus 195 degrees Fahrenheit). In the summer the caps retreat to relatively small areas around the poles. The movie also demonstrates the large difference in temperatures between the northern hemisphere's summer (beginning when solar longitude, or Ls, is 90 degrees) and the southern hemisphere's summer (beginning when Ls is 270 degrees). This difference is because the orbit of Mars around the Sun is more elliptical than Earth's orbit. As on Earth, a hemisphere's summer is when that hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun, but on Mars, the planet's distance from the Sun varies much more than on Earth. Mars is closest to the Sun, and therefore warmest, during the southern summer season. In northern summer, when Mars' northern hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun, the planet is farther from the Sun.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/ASU
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