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CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars)
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From the Surface Up
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From the Surface Up

Acquired Date: April 7, 2010
Release Date: September 26, 2014
Latitude: -41.00 N
Longitude: 262.00 E
Keywords: Atmospheric, Space, Tharsis Region
Parameters: N/A

These CRISM images are mostly used to study the different gases and aerosols within Mars’s atmosphere, but they also give a great perspective on how thin the atmosphere really is. Surface features from the bottom of the image can be seen until the instrument slowly starts to tilt up to look at the atmosphere. The end of view of the planet is right at the ‘P’ in the ‘ATMOSPHERE’ label. From there to space (black), you see only the hazy martian atmosphere. If a spacecraft were to take the same type of image but with respect to the Earth, we would see the surface, then clouds, and a haze that gets thinner as it gets farther from the Earth. See an example here.



These CRISM images are mostly used to study the different gases and aerosols within Mars’s atmosphere, but they also give a great perspective on how thin the atmosphere really is. Surface features from the bottom of the image can be seen until the instrument slowly starts to tilt up to look at the atmosphere. The end of view of the planet is right at the ‘P’ in the ‘ATMOSPHERE’ label. From there to space (black), you see only the hazy martian atmosphere. If a spacecraft were to take the same type of image but with respect to the Earth, we would see the surface, then clouds, and a haze that gets thinner as it gets farther from the Earth. See an example here.

In order to make observations like these, the MRO spacecraft must pitch onto its side so CRISM no longer looks down at the surface, but instead out onto the horizon of the planet. This particular observation shows the hazy atmosphere over the Tharsis region.

The Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) is one of six science instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Led by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the CRISM team includes expertise from universities, government agencies and small businesses in the United States and abroad.

CRISM's mission: Find the spectral fingerprints of aqueous and hydrothermal deposits and map the geology, composition and stratigraphy of surface features. The instrument also tracks seasonal variations in dust and ice aerosols in the Martian atmosphere, and water content in surface materials — leading to new understanding of the climate.

Credit: NASA/JPL/JHUAPL

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