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In this artist's concept image, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter orbits above the orange-red surface of Mars.  The planet's thin atmosphere is represented by a whitish haze above the surface.  The spacecraft is using its Mars Climate Sounder instrument to take vertical profiles of the atmosphere, represented by tall, thin, bluish-white beams that are scored like lined notebook paper.
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The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter using its Mars Climate Sounder instrument

This artist's concept of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at Mars features one of its instruments - the Mars Climate Sounder - in action. Using nine channels across the visible and thermal infrared ranges of the spectrum, the Mars Climate Sounder looks first at space through the atmosphere above the horizon of Mars to get a vertical profile with temperature, pressure, dust opacity and water vapor concentration measurements every 5 kilometers (3 miles) in the vertical from the ground to 80 km (~50 miles). It also looks down onto the planet to get surface temperature and column abundances of dust and water vapor.

These "profiles" and surface measurements are combined into daily, three-dimensional global weather maps for both daytime and nighttime. Observations will be made through the martian year to characterize the large seasonal variations in atmospheric dust loading, humidity and thermal structure, thereby providing scientists with the same type of information meteorologists use to understand and predict both weather and climate here on Earth.

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