October 14, 2014

Dust aerosols above the south polar cap of Mars as seen by OMEGA

Vincendon M., Langevin Y., Poulet F., Bibring J.-P., Gondet B., Jouglet D.
Icarus, 196, 2, 488-505

Summary: The time evolution of atmospheric dust at high southern latitudes on Mars has been determined using observations of the south seasonal cap acquired in the near infrared (1–2.65 µm) by OMEGA/Mars Express in 2005. Observations at different solar zenith angles and one EPF sequence demonstrate that the reflectance in the 2.64 µm saturated absorption band of the surface CO2 ice is mainly due to the light scattered by aerosols above most places of the seasonal cap. We have mapped the total optical depth of dust aerosols in the near-IR above the south seasonal cap of Mars from mid-spring to early summer with a time resolution ranging from one day to one week and a spatial resolution of a few kilometers. The optical depth above the south perennial cap is determined on a longer time range covering southern spring and summer. A constant set of optical properties of dust aerosols is consistent with OMEGA observations during the analyzed period. Strong variations of the optical depth are observed over small horizontal and temporal scales, corresponding in part to moving dust clouds. The late summer peak in dust opacity observed by Opportunity in 2005 propagated to the south pole contrarily to that observed in mid spring. This may be linked to evidence for dust scavenging by water ice-rich clouds circulating at high southern latitudes at this season.