Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

The (Infra) Red Planet

By Hannah HoagSeptember 1, 2002 5:00 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

New views of Mars from THEMIS, an infrared camera aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft, are allowing earthbound scientists to decode the storied geological history of our neighboring planet. Slight variations in composition or texture, which can record the action of wind or water, pop out in an infrared view because they affect the way the surface radiates heat. Philip Christensen, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University, used this new capability to study the unusual landscape of Terra Meridiani (above), a region of outcrops on Mars analogous to the buttes and bluffs of northern Arizona. The infrared views show that distinct layers of rock, once continuous, have eroded in a complex pattern. Christensen suspects the layers were created by the movement of subsurface water, but other researchers have considered volcanic deposits or strong winds in an earlier, thicker atmosphere. New color snapshots from Themis will help clear up the debate. Each spectral band in the camera's rainbow images signifies a different mineral. Carbonate rocks, which form only in the presence of liquid water, would prove that oceans and lakes once reshaped the dusty surface of Mars.


Photograph courtesy of NASA/JPL

    3 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In