Observations of Mars

June 22nd, 2011 |
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

MARCI Imagery of the Martian North Pole

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched in August of 2005 and began orbiting Mars in March 2006. Its mission is to seek evidence that water persisted on Mars long enough to allow life to develop. One of the instruments on board the MRO is MARCI, the Mars Color Imager, which monitors the clouds and dust storms of the planet. The sensor detects radiation in 5 visible light bands as well as 2 ultraviolet bands. The image loop above shows two days’ of data from the Red Band from the Polar orbiter. The Red Band shows very little distortion and therefore the surface ice (a mix of water and frozen carbon dioxide) remains largely stationary. The images show thin clouds associated with an anticyclonic gyre oscillating around the North Pole in synch with a semi-diurnal tide. Dust and ice comprise the clouds in this scene.

SSEC has a long history of investigating the meteorology of other planets (Examples here and here) using satellite data. For more information on MARCI and MRO from NASA, click here.