NASA’s Mars Odyssey captured the Martian horizon from orbit. Usually, the THEMIS camera is not used for this. However, this time scientists decided to explore the Martian atmosphere and this allowed them to get an amazing panorama.
Martian horizon from orbit
NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft took an amazing picture of the fourth planet of the solar system. The large panorama obtained from its orbit clearly shows the curved horizon, which proves that Mars is really a ball. In addition, the image allows us to see the layers of the atmosphere.
This picture is familiar to the Earth’s orbit. Astronauts regularly enjoy it. However, there are no stations with people above Mars, and those probes working near the red planet usually either simply do not have the necessary cameras or are busy observing the surface.
The Mars Odyssey has been operating in Martian orbit for 22 years, but during this time it has never taken photos like the one presented. It was taken from a height of 400 kilometers. In fact, it consists of 10 separate images stitched together by a computer.
Non-standard use of the camera
In order to get the pictures, the THEMIS camera was used. It works in the infrared part of the spectrum and is extremely sensitive. Due to this, the system is usually used to map ice, rocks, sand and dust. It also tracks temperature changes on the planet.
THEMIS can also determine the water and ice content of the atmosphere. However, this camera is directed vertically down to the surface of the planet, so it cannot separate individual layers. And scientists are very interested in this information. Therefore, they decided to take a picture of the Martian horizon with it, where it would be visible what was happening in the atmosphere at different altitudes.
The only problem is that THEMIS does not have a mechanism for changing the viewing angle. Therefore, it had to be rotated almost 90° along with the entire spacecraft. The orientation change operation lasted several hours, and all this time the researchers had no connection with the spacecraft. But now they have all the necessary data.
In addition, as a result of the maneuver, Mars Odyssey got the opportunity to photograph Mars’ moon Deimos, which is also not so often possible. This celestial body is an asteroid captured by the gravity of the red planet. A mission is planned for it in the future, so this data will be able to help prepare for it.
According to phys.org
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