Magellan: Radar Performance and Data Products

Science  12 Apr 1991:
Vol. 252, Issue 5003, pp. 260-265
DOI: 10.1126/science.252.5003.260


The Magellan Venus orbiter carries only one scientific instrument: a 12.6-centimeter wavelength radar system shared among three data-taking modes. The synthetic-aperture mode images radar echoes from the Venus surface at a resolution of between 120 and 300 meters, depending on spacecraft altitude. In the altimetric mode, relative height measurement accuracies may approach 5 meters, depending on the terrain's roughness, although orbital uncertainties place a floor of about 50 meters on the absolute uncertainty. In areas of extremely rough topography, accuracy is limited by the inherent line-of-sight radar resolution of about 88 meters. The maximum elevation observed to date, corresponding to a planetary radius of 6062 kilometers, lies within Maxwell Mons. When used as a thermal emission radiometer, the system can determine surface emissivities to an absolute accuracy of about 0.02. Mosaicked and archival digital data products will be released in compact disk (CDROM) format.