Mars Climate Sounder, one of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's six science instruments, is performing a detailed, systematic study of Mars' weather and climate. Mars Climate Sounder was the first science investigation at Mars capable of performing a "4-dimensional" study (three spatial dimensions and time) of the key properties of the planet's atmosphere.
NASA / JPL-Caltech
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mars Climate Sounder artist concept
As Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter flies about 300 kilometers (180 miles) above Mars' surface, it almost continuously scans the surface and edge of the atmosphere with the Mars Climate Sounder to build up a "four-dimensional" view of the temperature, pressure, and composition of the bottom 80 kilometers (50 miles) of Mars' atmosphere over the course of one Martian year.
Since Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter began its science operations in November 2006, Mars Climate Sounder has been acquiring vertical profiles of the temperature, pressure, dust, and clouds of the lower 80 kilometers (50 miles) of Mars' atmosphere.
Mars Climate Sounder is now gathering long-term climate data during its extended mission, allowing it to study how the climate varies over time. The Planetary Society is a proud education outreach partner on the Mars Climate Sounder project.
May 16, 2012 is the third martian anniversary of the start of Mars Climate Sounder (MCS) observations from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. MCS started measuring the atmosphere of Mars three Mars years ago, on September 24, 2006. We can now compare the weather and behavior of the atmosphere in three different years, and find the temperature differences to be surprisingly large.
The Mars Climate Sounder instrument provides routine nightside observations of atmospheric temperature and opacity that document the presence of rapidly evolving water ice cloud layers in the Martian tropics during the northern summer season.
I just posted the following update to the Mars Climate Sounder Team Website. I didn't realize until this message came in to my inbox that it is now one Mars year before Curiosity lands. Tick, tick, tick...
Two weeks ago Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Climate Sounder (MCS) started a four-week campaign to support entry, descent, and landing phase for the next Mars rover, Mars Science Laboratory (or "Curiosity").
One of the instruments on a 2016 mission to orbit Mars will provide daily maps of global, pole-to-pole, vertical distributions of the temperature, dust, water vapor and ice clouds in the Martian atmosphere.