Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mars Express radar data analysis is on the move

18.11.2005


The Mars Express radar, MARSIS, has now been deployed for more than four months. Here we report on the activities so far.



For the operational period up to now, Mars Express has been making its closest approaches to Mars predominantly in the daytime portion of its orbit. The MARSIS radar’s scientists are mainly collecting data about the upper layers of the Martian atmosphere, or ‘ionosphere’, which is the highly electrically conducting layer that is maintained by sunlight.

They are also continuing the laborious analysis of all data gathered during the first night-time observations last summer, especially in the search for and interpretation of possible signals from subsurface layers. This includes the search for a possible signature of underground water, in frozen or liquid state.


Radar science is a complex business - it is based on the detection of radio waves reflected by boundaries between different materials. By analysis of these ‘echoes’, it is possible to deduce information about the kind of material causing the reflection, such as estimates of its composition and physical state.

Different materials are characterised by their ‘dielectric constant’, that is the specific way they interact with electromagnetic radiation, such as radio waves. When a radio wave crosses the boundary of different layers of ‘material’, an echo is generated and carries a sort of ‘fingerprint’ from the specific materials.

From the time delay for an echo to be received by the radar instrument, the distance or the depth of the layers of material producing the echo can be deduced.

While the Mars Express point closest approach is in daylight, MARSIS is only operating at higher frequencies within its capability because the lower-frequency radio signals get disturbed. With these higher frequencies, MARSIS can study the ionosphere and the surface, while some shallow subsurface sounding can still be attempted.

During night-time observations, like those performed briefly last summer immediately after deployment, it is possible for MARSIS to use all frequencies for scientific measurements, including the lowest ones, suitable for penetrating under the soil of Mars.

Tuning to different frequencies for different targets in different conditions is not the only secret of MARSIS. The instrument, responding to signals reflected from any direction, requires scientists also do a huge amount of analysis work to remove these interfering signals from the echoes.

A typical example of what they look for is ‘clutter backscattering’, which are reflections apparently coming from the subsurface, but actually produced by irregularities in the surface terrain that delay the return of the echo. For this ‘cleaning’ work, the team also makes use of ‘surface echo simulator’ computer programs.

In the first months of operations, MARSIS performed its first ionospheric sounding. The data are converted into typical plots, called ‘ionograms’, where the altitude at which the echo was generated, deduced by the echo time delay, is given for each transmitted frequency. The intensity of the various echo signals detected is indicated in different colours.

In parallel to the analysis of surface and subsurface signals, the scientists are studying all ionograms to draw the first conclusions on the nature and behaviour of the ionosphere of Mars, and of its interaction with the planet and the surrounding environment.

Agustin Chicarro | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/SEM30WTLWFE_0.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers
21.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy
21.04.2017 | Stockholm University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>