Emily Lakdawalla • Apr 09, 2009
Update on the Mars dust event
It's been a week since I posted a storm warning from Mars, and I have an update with the latest data. In brief: the southern dust event is not abating, but the dust has not spilled across the equator; everything's staying in the south for now.
To quickly review, I'm talking about data hot from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's Mars Climate Sounder, an instrument that stares off of Mars' limb to take profiles of atmospheric properties like temperature, pressure, and dust abundance. (It's not as easy as that of course; what they measure directly is the brightness of the atmosphere at several near- and mid-infrared wavelengths, and they have to do mathematical modeling to extract the information they're really looking for.) In the diagrams below, we're basically seeing the temperature of the atmosphere high above the ground, from about 20 to 40 kilometers elevation.
Two weeks ago, Mars looked typical for the season, with a very cold spot at the north pole, and otherwise fairly uniform temperatures that don't change a whole lot from day to night.
Some things we can explain -- some things we can't. There's always more to learn!
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