The Shape of Mars and the Topographic Signature of the Hemispheric Dichotomy

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Science  12 Jan 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5246, pp. 184-188
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5246.184


Reanalysis of occultation data from the Mariner 9 and Viking Orbiter spacecraft to determine the shape of Mars indicated that the hemispheric dichotomy is not a fundamental feature of the shape of the planet. It is a consequence of an approximately 3-kilometer offset between Mars's center of mass and center of figure, and the boundary, along most of its length, consists of broad, gradual surface slopes over distances of thousands of kilometers. This result was supported by analysis of high spatial resolution Earth-based radar topographic profiles. Any successful model for the origin of the dichotomy must explain a planet with an ellipsoidal shape and a long wavelength gradual topographic transition between the northern and southern hemispheres.

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