This is a panoramic image taken by the THEMIS thermal imaging camera aboard NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey rover. It was created by combining 10 images taken on May 9, 2023 at an altitude of about 400 kilometers.
This image shows clouds and dust made of water ice particles spread out in layers high in the sky above the desolate Martian landscape, where craters are prominently visible. “If there were astronauts in orbit around Mars, they would have this kind of perspective,” commented Jonathan Hale of Arizona State University, who leads THEMIS operations. Please note that this image was created by colorizing data obtained at infrared wavelengths, which emphasize clouds and dust in the atmosphere, so it differs from the view seen by human eyes that capture visible light.
According to NASA, temperature-sensitive infrared cameras like THEMIS can be used to map the distribution and temperature changes of ice, rocks, sand and dust on the surface of Mars, and to determine the amount of ice and dust present in the atmosphere. What you do can be measured. It can be difficult to get a real sense of what it will look like just by looking at this image released as a result, but this observation by the Odyssey spacecraft, which will celebrate the 22nd anniversary of its arrival at Mars in October 2023, took three months to carefully prepare.
Observations planned to improve models of the Martian atmosphere require a broader view of the atmosphere in order to understand the interrelationships between clouds and dust layers. To obtain the necessary observing data, THEMIS must be pointed in a direction that allows it to see a “cross-section of the atmosphere,” i.e. capture the Martian horizon.
However, THEMIS is installed on the main body of the Odyssey spacecraft and is usually observed directly below. So, the operations team thought of a mode that would allow the Odyssey spacecraft to change direction by 90 degrees while satisfying the condition that sunlight would hit the solar cells but not the temperature-sensitive equipment. I went to make an observation.
This observation also captured images of Mars’ moon Phobos. According to NASA, this is the seventh observation of Phobos by the Odyssey THEMIS spacecraft. This time, they were able to observe Phobos at a different angle and with different sunlight conditions than in previous observations, and it is hoped that the new images will provide insight into Phobos’ composition and physical properties.
- NASA – NASA’s orbiter captures stunning views of the Martian horizon
- NASA/JPL – PIA26203: THEMIS OF THE Odyssey showing the horizon of Mars
Text Editing/Syrian Studies Department
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