Martian variable features: New insight from the Mars Express Orbiter and the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit

TitleMartian variable features: New insight from the Mars Express Orbiter and the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsGreeley R, Arvidson RE, Bell, III JF, Christensen PR, Haldemann A, Kuzmin RO, Landis GA, Neakrase LDV, Neukum G, Squyres SW, Sullivan RJ, Thompson SD, Whelley PL, Williams DA
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research-Planets
Date PublishedJun
ISBN Number0148-0227
Accession NumberWOS:000229965700001

[1] Linear, low-albedo patterns ( termed dark wind streaks) formed on the floor of Gusev crater between September 2003 and February 2004, as seen on High Resolution Stereo Camera images taken on board the Mars Express Orbiter. Pancam images from the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit show that the rover crossed a dark streak during its traverse to Bonneville crater. Spirit Microscopic Imager data reveal that sand grains within the dark wind streak are relatively free of dust, whereas grains outside the streak are mantled with dust. During the September 2004 solar conjunction, Spirit remained in one location from sol 240 to sol 260. Comparison of images taken before and after the conjunction shows that patches of soil beneath the rover darkened with respect to the adjacent soils, suggesting removal of relatively bright material. Two MI mosaics taken 18 sols apart of the surface within 0.5 m of the nearest dark patch show that some larger ( 1 - 2 mm) sand grains moved as far as 0.7 mm. These observations support the hypothesis that some dark surface patterns result from the removal and/or repositioning of fine-grained material by winds, exposing a relatively lower albedo substrate, such as coarse sand grains. Other variable features on the Gusev floor seen from orbit faded between September 2003 and February 2004 and are interpreted to represent settling of dust from the atmosphere, consistent with the accumulation of dust observed on Spirit. The observation of dark streaks fading with time, while some dark streaks were newly formed, is consistent with local wind gusts or the passage of dust devils that locally sweep dust from the surface or cause a redistribution of fine grains among larger particles.