Observational evidence of a suppressed planetary boundary layer in northern Gale Crater, Mars as seen by the Navcam instrument onboard the Mars Science Laboratory rover

John E. Moores, Mark T. Lemmon, Henrik Kahanpää, Scot C R Rafkin, Raymond Francis, Jorge Pla-Garcia, Keri Bean, Robert Haberle, Claire Newman, Michael Mischna, Ashwin R. Vasavada, Manuel de la Torre Juárez, Nilton Rennó, James Bell, Fred Calef, Bruce Cantor, Timothy H. Mcconnochie, Ari Matti Harri, Maria Genzer, Michael H. WongMichael D. Smith, F. Javier Martín-Torres, María Paz Zorzano, Osku Kemppinen, Emily McCullough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Navigation Cameras (Navcam) of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, have been used to examine two aspects of the planetary boundary layer: vertical dust distribution and dust devil frequency. The vertical distribution of dust may be obtained by using observations of the distant crater rim to derive a line-of-sight optical depth within Gale Crater and comparing this optical depth to column optical depths obtained using Mastcam observations of the solar disc. The line of sight method consistently produces lower extinctions within the crater compared to the bulk atmosphere. This suggests a relatively stable atmosphere in which dust may settle out leaving the air within the crater clearer than air above and explains the correlation in observed column opacity between the floor of Gale Crater and the higher elevation Meridiani Planum. In the case of dust devils, despite an extensive campaign only one optically thick vortex (τ=1.5±0.5×10-3) was observed compared to 149 pressure events > 0.5Pa observed in REMS pressure data. Correcting for temporal coverage by REMS and geographic coverage by Navcam still suggests 104 vortices should have been viewable, suggesting that most vortices are dustless. Additionally, the most intense pressure excursions observed on other landing sites (pressure drop >2.5Pa) are lacking from the observations by the REMS instrument. Taken together, these observations are consistent with pre-landing circulation modeling of the crater showing a suppressed, shallow boundary layer. They are further consistent with geological observations of dust that suggests the northern portion of the crater is a sink for dust in the current era.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-142
Number of pages14
JournalIcarus
Volume249
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 5 2015

Fingerprint

Mars craters
planetary boundary layer
navigation
craters
crater
rapid eye movement state
Mars
boundary layer
dust
cameras
dust devil
optical thickness
optical depth
vortex
vortices
line of sight
circulation modeling
landing sites
atmospheres
vertical distribution

Keywords

  • Atmospheres, dynamics
  • Atmospheres, structure
  • Mars
  • Mars, atmosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics

Cite this

Observational evidence of a suppressed planetary boundary layer in northern Gale Crater, Mars as seen by the Navcam instrument onboard the Mars Science Laboratory rover. / Moores, John E.; Lemmon, Mark T.; Kahanpää, Henrik; Rafkin, Scot C R; Francis, Raymond; Pla-Garcia, Jorge; Bean, Keri; Haberle, Robert; Newman, Claire; Mischna, Michael; Vasavada, Ashwin R.; de la Torre Juárez, Manuel; Rennó, Nilton; Bell, James; Calef, Fred; Cantor, Bruce; Mcconnochie, Timothy H.; Harri, Ari Matti; Genzer, Maria; Wong, Michael H.; Smith, Michael D.; Martín-Torres, F. Javier; Zorzano, María Paz; Kemppinen, Osku; McCullough, Emily.

In: Icarus, Vol. 249, 05.03.2015, p. 129-142.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Moores, JE, Lemmon, MT, Kahanpää, H, Rafkin, SCR, Francis, R, Pla-Garcia, J, Bean, K, Haberle, R, Newman, C, Mischna, M, Vasavada, AR, de la Torre Juárez, M, Rennó, N, Bell, J, Calef, F, Cantor, B, Mcconnochie, TH, Harri, AM, Genzer, M, Wong, MH, Smith, MD, Martín-Torres, FJ, Zorzano, MP, Kemppinen, O & McCullough, E 2015, 'Observational evidence of a suppressed planetary boundary layer in northern Gale Crater, Mars as seen by the Navcam instrument onboard the Mars Science Laboratory rover', Icarus, vol. 249, pp. 129-142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2014.09.020
Moores, John E. ; Lemmon, Mark T. ; Kahanpää, Henrik ; Rafkin, Scot C R ; Francis, Raymond ; Pla-Garcia, Jorge ; Bean, Keri ; Haberle, Robert ; Newman, Claire ; Mischna, Michael ; Vasavada, Ashwin R. ; de la Torre Juárez, Manuel ; Rennó, Nilton ; Bell, James ; Calef, Fred ; Cantor, Bruce ; Mcconnochie, Timothy H. ; Harri, Ari Matti ; Genzer, Maria ; Wong, Michael H. ; Smith, Michael D. ; Martín-Torres, F. Javier ; Zorzano, María Paz ; Kemppinen, Osku ; McCullough, Emily. / Observational evidence of a suppressed planetary boundary layer in northern Gale Crater, Mars as seen by the Navcam instrument onboard the Mars Science Laboratory rover. In: Icarus. 2015 ; Vol. 249. pp. 129-142.
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AU - Moores, John E.

AU - Lemmon, Mark T.

AU - Kahanpää, Henrik

AU - Rafkin, Scot C R

AU - Francis, Raymond

AU - Pla-Garcia, Jorge

AU - Bean, Keri

AU - Haberle, Robert

AU - Newman, Claire

AU - Mischna, Michael

AU - Vasavada, Ashwin R.

AU - de la Torre Juárez, Manuel

AU - Rennó, Nilton

AU - Bell, James

AU - Calef, Fred

AU - Cantor, Bruce

AU - Mcconnochie, Timothy H.

AU - Harri, Ari Matti

AU - Genzer, Maria

AU - Wong, Michael H.

AU - Smith, Michael D.

AU - Martín-Torres, F. Javier

AU - Zorzano, María Paz

AU - Kemppinen, Osku

AU - McCullough, Emily

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N2 - The Navigation Cameras (Navcam) of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, have been used to examine two aspects of the planetary boundary layer: vertical dust distribution and dust devil frequency. The vertical distribution of dust may be obtained by using observations of the distant crater rim to derive a line-of-sight optical depth within Gale Crater and comparing this optical depth to column optical depths obtained using Mastcam observations of the solar disc. The line of sight method consistently produces lower extinctions within the crater compared to the bulk atmosphere. This suggests a relatively stable atmosphere in which dust may settle out leaving the air within the crater clearer than air above and explains the correlation in observed column opacity between the floor of Gale Crater and the higher elevation Meridiani Planum. In the case of dust devils, despite an extensive campaign only one optically thick vortex (τ=1.5±0.5×10-3) was observed compared to 149 pressure events > 0.5Pa observed in REMS pressure data. Correcting for temporal coverage by REMS and geographic coverage by Navcam still suggests 104 vortices should have been viewable, suggesting that most vortices are dustless. Additionally, the most intense pressure excursions observed on other landing sites (pressure drop >2.5Pa) are lacking from the observations by the REMS instrument. Taken together, these observations are consistent with pre-landing circulation modeling of the crater showing a suppressed, shallow boundary layer. They are further consistent with geological observations of dust that suggests the northern portion of the crater is a sink for dust in the current era.

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