Atmospheric movies acquired at the Mars Science Laboratory landing site: Cloud morphology, frequency and significance to the Gale Crater water cycle and Phoenix mission results

John E. Moores, Mark T. Lemmon, Scot C.R. Rafkin, Raymond Francis, Jorge Pla-Garcia, Manuel De La Torre Juárez, Keri Bean, David Kass, Robert Haberle, Claire Newman, Michael Mischna, Ashwin Vasavada, Nilton Rennó, Jim Bell, Fred Calef, Bruce Cantor, Timothy H. McConnochie, Ari Matti Harri, Maria Genzer, Michael WongMichael D. Smith, F. Javier Martín-Torres, María Paz Zorzano, Osku Kemppinen, Emily McCullough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We report on the first 360 sols (L S 150° to 5°), representing just over half a Martian year, of atmospheric monitoring movies acquired using the NavCam imager from the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Rover Curiosity. Such movies reveal faint clouds that are difficult to discern in single images. The data set acquired was divided into two different classifications depending upon the orientation and intent of the observation. Up to sol 360, 73 Zenith movies and 79 Supra-Horizon movies have been acquired and time-variable features could be discerned in 25 of each. The data set from MSL is compared to similar observations made by the Surface Stereo Imager (SSI) onboard the Phoenix Lander and suggests a much drier environment at Gale Crater (4.6°S) during this season than was observed in Green Valley (68.2°N) as would be expected based on latitude and the global water cycle. The optical depth of the variable component of clouds seen in images with features are up to 0.047 ± 0.009 with a granularity to the features observed which averages 3.8°. MCS also observes clouds during the same period of comparable optical depth at 30 and 50 km that would suggest a cloud spacing of 2.0 to 3.3 km. Multiple motions visible in atmospheric movies support the presence of two distinct layers of clouds. At Gale Crater, these clouds are likely caused by atmospheric waves given the regular spacing of features observed in many Zenith movies and decreased spacing towards the horizon in sunset movies consistent with clouds forming at a constant elevation. Reanalysis of Phoenix data in the light of the NavCam equatorial dataset suggests that clouds may have been more frequent in the earlier portion of the Phoenix mission than was previously thought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2217-2238
Number of pages22
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Volume55
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Atmospheric dynamics
  • Clouds
  • Mars
  • Water cycle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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    Moores, J. E., Lemmon, M. T., Rafkin, S. C. R., Francis, R., Pla-Garcia, J., De La Torre Juárez, M., Bean, K., Kass, D., Haberle, R., Newman, C., Mischna, M., Vasavada, A., Rennó, N., Bell, J., Calef, F., Cantor, B., McConnochie, T. H., Harri, A. M., Genzer, M., ... McCullough, E. (2015). Atmospheric movies acquired at the Mars Science Laboratory landing site: Cloud morphology, frequency and significance to the Gale Crater water cycle and Phoenix mission results. Advances in Space Research, 55(9), 2217-2238. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.asr.2015.02.007