Mariner 9 S-Band Martian Occultation Experiment: Initial Results on the Atmosphere and Topography of Mars

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Science  21 Jan 1972:
Vol. 175, Issue 4019, pp. 313-317
DOI: 10.1126/science.175.4019.313


A preliminary analysis of 15 radio occultation measurements taken on the day side of Mars between 40°S and 33°S has revealed that the temperature in the lower 15 to 20 kilometers of the atmosphere of Mars is essentially isothermal and warmer than expected. This result, which is also confirmed by the increased altitude of the ionization peak of the ionosphere, can possibly be caused by the absorption of solar radiation by fine particles of dust suspended in the lower atmosphere. The measurements also revealed elevation differences of 13 kilometers and a range of surface pressures between 2.9 and 8.3 millibars. The floor of the classical bright area of Hellas was found to be about 6 kilometers below its western rim and 4 kilometers below the mean radius of Mars at that latitude. The region between Mare Sirenum and Solis Lacus was found to be relatively high, lying 5 to 8 kilometers above the mean radius. The maximum electron density in the ionosphere (about 1.5 x 105 electrons per cubic centimeter), which was found to be remarkably constant, was somewhat lower than that observed in 1969 but higher than that observed in 1965.