The Mars Climate Sounder instrument on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter maps the vertical distribution of temperatures, dust, water vapor and ice clouds in the Martian atmosphere as the orbiter flies a near-polar orbit.
This example of data from the instrument shows 13 orbits of nighttime temperatures at altitudes of zero to 80 kilometers (50 miles) above the surface, presented as curtains along the orbital track. Temperatures range from 120 Kelvin (minus 244 degrees Fahrenheit), coded purple, to 200 Kelvin (minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit), coded green.
The data are from March 1, 2008, which was during early spring on northern Mars. The globe of Mars depicted under the curtains is a Google Earth product using elevation data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor.
The ExoMars Climate Sounder, selected in August 2010 as part of the science payload for the 2016 ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter mission, will resemble the Mars Climate Sounder and provide similar types of data sets. The 2016 mission is a collaboration of the European Space Agency and NASA.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., supplied and operates the Mars Climate Sounder for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and will supply and operate the ExoMars Climate Sounder for the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. JPL also manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate and manages NASA's roles in the 2016 mission. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Browse Image | Full Res Image (NASA's Planetary Photojournal)