Martian variable features: New insight from the Mars express orbiter and the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit

Ronald Greeley, Raymond Arvidson, James Bell, Philip Christensen, Daniel Foley, Albert Haldemann, Ruslan O. Kuzmin, Geoff Landis, Lynn D V Neakrase, Gerhard Neukum, Steve W. Squyres, Robert Sullivan, Shane D. Thompson, Patrick L. Whelley, David Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Linear, low-albedo patterns (termed dark wind streaks) formed on the floor of Gusev crater between September 2003 and February 2004, as seen on High Resolution Stereo Camera images taken on board the Mars Express Orbiter. Pancam images from the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit show that the rover crossed a dark streak during its traverse to Bonneville crater. Spirit Microscopic Imager data reveal that sand grains within the dark wind streak are relatively free of dust, whereas grains outside the streak are mantled with dust. During the September 2004 solar conjunction, Spirit remained in one location from sol 240 to sol 260. Comparison of images taken before and after the conjunction shows that patches of soil beneath the rover darkened with respect to the adjacent soils, suggesting removal of relatively bright material. Two MI mosaics taken 18 sols apart of the surface within 0.5 m of the nearest dark patch show that some larger (1-2 mm) sand grains moved as far as 0.7 mm. These observations support the hypothesis that some dark surface patterns result from the removal and/or repositioning of fine-grained material by winds, exposing a relatively lower albedo substrate, such as coarse sand grains. Other variable features on the Gusev floor seen from orbit faded between September 2003 and February 2004 and are interpreted to represent settling of dust from the atmosphere, consistent with the accumulation of dust observed on Spirit. The observation of dark streaks fading with time, while some dark streaks were newly formed, is consistent with local wind gusts or the passage of dust devils that locally sweep dust from the surface or cause a redistribution of fine grains among larger particles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE06002
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 20 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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