High-resolution atmospheric observations by the Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System

Ai Inada, Mark I. Richardson, Timothy H. McConnochie, Melissa J. Strausberg, Huiqun Wang, James F. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


High-resolution observations of atmospheric phenomena by the Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) during its first mapping year are presented. An atmospheric campaign was implemented on the basis of previous spacecraft imaging. This campaign, however, proved of limited success. This appears to be due to the late local time of the Odyssey orbit (the locations of activity at 4-6 p.m. appear to be different from those at 2 p.m.). Ironically, images targeting the surface were more useful for study of the atmosphere than those images specifically targeting atmospheric features. While many previously recognized features were found, novel THEMIS observations included persistent clouds in the southern polar layered deposits, dust or condensate plumes on the northern polar layered deposits, dust plumes as constituent parts of local dust storms, and mesospheric clouds. The former two features tend to be aligned parallel and normal to polar troughs, respectively, suggesting a wind system directed normal to troughs and radially outward from the center of the polar deposits. This is consistent with katabatic drainage of air off the polar deposits, analogous to flow off Antarctica. The observation of dust lifting plumes at unprecedented resolution associated with local dust storms not only demonstrates the importance of mean wind stresses (as opposed to dust devils) in initiation of dust storms, but is also seen to be morphologically identical to dust lifting in terrestrial dust storms. As Odyssey moves to earlier local times, we suggest that the atmospheric campaign from the first mapping year be repeated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-395
Number of pages18
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 15 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Mars
  • atmosphere
  • polar caps

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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