|Olympus Mons, 1998
Olympus Mons is a mountain of mystery. Taller than three Mount
Everests and about as wide as the entire Hawaiian Island chain, this
giant volcano is nearly as flat as a pancake. That is, its flanks typically
only slope 2° to 5°.
The Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) obtained this spectacular wide-angle
view of Olympus Mons on Mars Global Surveyor's 263rd orbit, around
10:40 p.m. PDT on April 25, 1998. In the view presented here, north is
to the left and east is up. The spacecraft was traveling from north to
south (left to right). Although the camera looks straight down
(towards the nadir) and cannot be pointed to the side, the wide angle
camera has such a large field of view (it sees from horizon to horizon)
that, in effect, it provides side looking views. Unlike some other MOC
images, that have had to be warped to provide a view as if seen from
a certain direction and altitude, this image shows what the camera saw
without additional processing. It is easy to imagine that you are looking
out a window at the surface of Mars from about 900 km (560 miles) up.
The image was taken on a cool, crisp winter morning. The west side
of the volcano (lower portion of view, above) was clear and details on
the surface appear very sharp. The skies above the plains to the east
of Olympus Mons (upper portion of view) were cloudy. Clouds were
lapping against the lower east flanks of this 26 kilometers (16 miles)
high volcano, but the summit skies were clear.
When Mars Global Surveyor attains its Mapping Orbit in March
1999, the MOC wide angle camera system will be used to make daily,
global maps of martian clouds and weather systems. The wide angle
images will resemble weather satellite pictures of Earth, and will help
the Mars science teams plan their observations and test computer-driven
Mars weather prediction models.
Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of
Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars
Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San
Diego, CA. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations
Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial
partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, CA
and Denver, CO.
Photo Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems