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Viking Lander image analysis of Martian atmospheric dust


  • James B. Pollack,

  • Maureen E. Ockert-Bell,

  • Michael K. Shepard


We have reanalyzed three sets of Viking Lander 1 and 2 (VL1 and VL2) images of the Martian atmosphere to better evaluate the radiative properties of the atmospheric dust particles. The properties of interest are the first two moments of the size distribution, the single-scattering albedo, the dust single-scattering phase function, and the imaginary index of refraction. These properties provide a good definition of the influence that the atmospheric dust has on heating of the atmosphere. Our analysis represents a significant improvement over past analyses (Pollack et al. 1977, 1979) by deriving more accurate brightnesses closer to the sun, by carrying out more precise analyses of the data to acquire the quantities of interest, and by using a better representation of scattering by nonspherical particles. The improvements allow us to better define the diffraction peak and hence the size distribution of the particles. For a lognormal particle size distribution, the first two moments of the size distribution, weighted by the geometric cross section, are found. The geometric cross-section weighted mean radius (reff) is found to be 1.85±0.3 μm at VL2 during northern summer when dust loading was low and 1.52±0.3 μm at VL1 during the first dust storm. In both cases the best cross-section weighted mean variance (νeff) of the size distribution is equal to 0.5±0.2 μm. The changes in size distribution, and thus radiative properties, do not represent a substantial change in solar energy deposition in the atmosphere over the Pollack et al. (1977, 1979) estimates.

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