Solar System - C. C. Lang
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physical features on mars powerpoint - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Check your knowledge--. Northerners have cold days in January because:. (a) the earth is farthest from the Sun in January. (b) the orbital velocity of Earth is greatest in Jan. . (c) the Sun is lower in the sky in January. (d) El Nino is always strongest in January. ANSWER: (c).

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Check your knowledge--

Northerners have cold days in January because:

(a) the earth is farthest from the Sun in January

(b) the orbital velocity of Earth is greatest in Jan.

(c) the Sun is lower in the sky in January

(d) El Nino is always strongest in January


Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Physical Features of Mars

  • The Martian Surface as revealed by the Mariners, Vikings

  • - craters

  • - volcanoes

  • - plains

  • Evidence for Water on Mars

  • - geological

  • - chemical

  • The Martian Atmosphere

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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  • Fast Facts on Mars:

  • size = 5974 km/4200 miles

  • ~53% Earth’s size

  • mass = 6.5 x 1023 kg or

  • 0.1 Earth’s mass

  • density = 3900 kg/m3

  • (Earth’s density = 5510 kg/m3)

  • gravity/physics will be

  • different on Mars, i.e., mts.,

  • activity in planet’s core

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Mariners 6 and 7

Fly by of Mars on 31 Jul 1969

- came within 2,130 miles of Mars

- pictures of ~20% surface (missed important volcanic features)

- sent back ~80 photos (Mar. 6) and ~120 photos (Mar. 7)

Mariners 6 and 7 had scientfic instruments to study Martian atmosphere:

- composition, pressure, density, and temperature

- two cameras

- infrared spectrometer

- ultraviolet spectrometer

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Martian surface covered with craters!

- surface isn’t smooth (as historical observations thought)

- similar to Moon surface (being studied simultaneously)

- must be old: peak in impacts ~3.8 billion years ago

- difficult to see from Earth, but Mars’ thin atmosphere

- many gave up hope for seeing “water”/ “life” on Mars

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Mariner 9 – first ORBITER spacecraft!!

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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  • Mariner 9 was the first spacecraft to orbit another planet

  • - arrived at Mars 14 November 1971

  • - orbited Mars for more than a year

  • Major dust storm on Mars when Mariner 9 arrived!

    • surface was not visible for an entire month

    • however, the cones of major volcanoes (new discovery) were visible

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Craters weren’t all that was found on Mars!!

Even though dust covered, there were several ‘crater-like’ features visible rising above the dust...

Picture from Mariner 9

during the dust storm

(ignore black dots)

Carl Sagan took a polaroid of the TV screen in the headquarters of Mariner 9 – he rushed into a group of scientists in the next room and they realized that these were volcanic calderas!!

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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  • Mariner 9’s Mars Milestones

  • 349 days in orbit (circled Mars twice daily for a year)

  • Mariner 9 transmitted 7,329 images, covering over 80% of Mars' surface

  • lowest altitude images distance of spacecraft ~900 miles above surface

  • An infrared radiometer was included to detect volcanic activity

  • Mars' tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos, were also photographed.

Channels on the flanks of the

volcano Hecates Tholus. Various

radial channels have been interpreted

as erosional ash channels,

lava channels or channels eroded

by fluvial processes.

Mariner 9 narrow angle camera.

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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The images revealed structures

resembling river beds

Extinct volcanic activity!

Olympus Mons – 3x as high

as volcanoes on Earth

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Valles Marineris – picture from Mariner

Valles Marineris - system of canyons over 4,000 km (2,500 miles)

- revived people’s interest in possible water/life

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Valles Marineris - “Grand Canyon of Mars”

  • streches for at least 2500 miles (NYC  LA)

  • “rift valley” – region broken by crust motions earlier in Mars’ history

  • signs of river erosion in early history of Mars (3-4 Billion yrs ago) like Grand Canyon

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Viking 1 and 2 – Orbiter & Lander

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Viking Orbiter

  • This image is a mosaic of the

  • Schiaparelli hemisphere of Mars.

  • The center of this image is near

  • the impact crater Schiaparelli,

  • 450 kilometers (280 miles) across!.

  • Bright white areas to the south,

  • including the Hellas impact basin

  • at extreme lower right, are covered

  • by carbon dioxide frost.

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Viking Orbiter

  • This image is a mosaic of the

  • Valles Marineris hemisphere of Mars.

  • The center is the Valles Marineris system – 3,000 km (1,860 miles) long and up to 8 km (5 miles) deep.

  • Many huge ancient river channels begin from the chaotic terrain and north-central canyons and run north.

  • Many of the channels flowed into a basin called Acidalia Planitia, which is the dark area in the extreme north.

  • The three Tharsis volcanoes (dark red spots), each about 25 kilometers (16 miles) high, are visible to the west.

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Changes in color across Mars’ Surface

- first thought to be vegetation!

- changes over seasons (growing seasons?)

  • now understood physically:

  • changes in the surface features (i.e. plains, volcanoes, crater beds)

  • changes in the surface

  • chemical composition (rock, soil types – e.g., basalt) determined from spectroscopy (radar) of reflected light from the surface

  • albedo – measure of the

  • reflectivity of a planet

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Mars Global Surveyor

- NASA launched in December 1996

- 6 instruments including

MOC – high resolution camera

MOLA – laser altimeter (first 3D look!)

TES – high-resolution temperature detector

Magnetic field detector

How do we measure the height of features on Mars?

Laser Altimeter (MOLA)

bounce laser beams off surface

time delay between signals gives height measure

plot of Mars’ height as a function of position on the planet – North to South

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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The “Face” on Mars (Viking Image from 1976)

Mars Global Surveyor (1998)

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Radar map of Martian surface


(Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter)

Color indicates elevation

(Blue =low, red= high)

Low area:

Former Ocean?

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Low elevation Northern hemisphere

- Resurfaced by some process??


Hellas impact basin (2000 km)

Valles Marineris (2500km)

High elevation southern hemisphere

Many more craters! “Older surface”?

Mars Topographic Map (MOLA radar 1998/99)

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Mars’ Crustal Dichotomy =

noticeable differences between N and S hemispheres

- Altitudes (N lowlands, S highlands)

- Cratering (age of surfaces?)

Various Explanations:

- large impact (asteroid) on Mars

- plate tectonics (although Mars too small for hot core)

- volcanic eruptions which smoothed parts of the planet

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Hellas Impact Basin

  • 2000 km diameter, 9 km deep!

  • Probably formed by asteroid impact

  • Debris from collision would cover US with layer 3 km thick

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Olympus Mons – largest volcano in S.S.

  • rises 15 miles above

  • surrounding flat plains

  • three times as tall as

  • Mt. Everest

  • “hot spot” volcanism

  • like in Hawaiian Islands

  • (magma lifts up underneath)

  • caldera is ~70 km across

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Tharsis Rise – cluster of large volcanoes

  • near Olympus Mons

  • blue/white clouds often

  • seen over these volcanoes

  • these clouds result when:

    • warm air (water) rises

    • cools at the high altitude

  • - freezes into cloud

Solar System - C. C. Lang

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Solar System - C. C. Lang