We report on line-of-sight extinction in northern Gale Crater, Mars as seen by the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, Curiosity from sol 100 to sol 900; a little more than an entire martian year. Navcam images oriented due north, which show the distant crater rim, the near ground and the sky allow the extinction due to dust within the crater to be determined. This line-of sight extinction is compared to a complementary dataset of column extinctions derived from Mastcam. The line-of-sight extinction within the crater is less than the column extinction for the majority of the martian year. This implies that the relatively low mixing ratio of dust within the crater as compared to the atmosphere above the crater rim persists through most of the year. This suggests relatively little mixing between the atmosphere above the crater and the atmosphere inside the crater and suggests that northern Gale Crater is a net sink of dust in the current era. The data does however show a yearly convergence of the line-of-sight extinction and the column-averaged extinction around Ls = 270–290°. This suggests that air above the crater mixes with air in the crater at this time, as predicted by mesoscale models. Matching line-of-sight and column extinction values are also seen around Ls ≈ 135°, a season that has only been observed once in this dataset, this is particularly interesting as the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station onboard Curiosity reports increased convective boundary layer heights in the same season.
CAM would like to acknowledge the contributions of the Mars Science Laboratory Participating Scientist Program for access to the science team and to rover operations and of the Canadian Space Agency for providing funding for this work.
- Mars, atmosphere
- Atmosphere, structure