October 14, 2014

Yearly and seasonal variations of low albedo surfaces on Mars in the OMEGA/MEx dataset: Constraints on aerosols properties and dust deposits

Vincendon et Al.
Icarus, Volume 200, Issue 2, p. 395-405

Summary: The time variations of spectral properties of dark martian surface features are investigated using the OMEGA near-IR dataset. The analyzed period covers two Mars years, spanning from early 2004 to early 2008 (includes the 2007 global dust event). Radiative transfer modeling indicates that the apparent albedo variations of low to mid-latitude dark regions are consistent with those produced by the varying optical depth of atmospheric dust as measured simultaneously from the ground by the Mars Exploration Rovers. We observe only a few significant albedo changes that can be attributed to surface phenomena. They are small-scaled and located at the boundaries between bright and dark regions. We then investigate the variations of the mean particle size of aerosols using the evolution of the observed dark region spectra between 1 and 2.5 µm. Overall, we find that the observed changes in the spectral slope are consistent with a mean particle size of aerosols varying with time between 1 and 2 µm. Observations with different solar zenith angles make it possible to characterize the aerosol layer at different altitudes, revealing a decrease of the particle size of aerosols as altitude increases.