Share This Article:

Detecting the light of the night sky in Mars

Abstract Full-Text HTML Download Download as PDF (Size:347KB) PP. 285-290
DOI: 10.4236/ns.2011.34036    5,292 Downloads   8,984 Views   Citations


In this paper a new methodology is outlined to detect the dust content in the Martian atmosphere during nighttime. In the previous Lander missions to Mars, scientists were able to determine the dust load in the Martian atmosphere during daylight using spectral lines of the Sun. Since the dynamics of Martian dust storms had been determined to be very rapid changing over times of hours and not days, it is imperative to determine the dust load during nighttime, so future astronauts to Mars can take protective measures for their equipment. They can also factor this effect for their planned activities during daytime. The new methodology greatly improves on the classical method for determining the extinction in the Earth’s atmosphere. The classical method uses observations of bright stars from which the optical depth, ?total, can then be deduced from the classical brightness equation. The classical method succeeds reasonably well at high elevation angles from the horizon but fails dramatically at low elevation angles. It also determines ?total from the slope of a plot of observed brightness of a bright star vs. air mass at all elevations. The plot shows a straight line at high elevations angles, which then curves and becomes uncertain at low elevation angles. The new methodology bypasses this severe difficulty by simply eliminating this plot, and by acquiring the brightness of a bright star above the atmosphere (no extinction) and compares it to the observed bright- ness of the same star below the atmosphere at all elevations.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Misconi, N. (2011) Detecting the light of the night sky in Mars. Natural Science, 3, 285-290. doi: 10.4236/ns.2011.34036.


[1] Smith, P.H. et al. (1997) Results from the Mars Pathfinder Camera. Science, 278, 1758. doi:10.1126/science.278.5344.1758
[2] Dumont, R. (1965) The night sky brightness at McDonald observatory. Annales d'Astrophysique Journal, 28, 265.
[3] Leinert, C., Richter, I., Pitz, E.and Hanner, M. (1982) Helios zodiacal light measurements, a tabulated summary. Astronomy & Astrophysics Journal, 110, 355.
[4] Levasseur-Regourd, A.C. and Dumont, R. (1982) Optical and thermal properties of zodiacal light. Astronomy & Astrophysics Journal, 84, 277.
[5] Misconi, N.Y. (1976) Solar flare effects on the zodiacal light? Astronomy & Astrophysics Journal, 51, 357.
[6] Tanabe, H. (1965) Photoelectric observations of the geg- enschein. Publications of the Astronomical Society of Ja- pp an, 17, 339.
[7] Weinberg, J.L. (1964) The zodiacal light at 5300A. Annales d'Astrophysique Journal, 27, 718.
[8] Weinberg, J.L. and Sparrow, J.G. (1980) Zodiacal as an indicator of interplanetary dust. In: McDonnell, J.A.M. Ed., Cosmic Dust, John Wiley & Sons, New York, p. 75.
[9] Weinberg, J.L. (1977) Status Report, NASA Grant NSG 7230.
[10] Weinberg, J.L. (1968) Final Report on NASA Grant NSG 7093.
[11] Hoekzema, N., Inada, A.A., Markiewicz, W., Keller, H.U., Gwinner, K., Hoffmann, H. and Neukum, G. (2005) 1st Mars Express Science Conference, European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), Noordwijk.
[12] Smith, D. M. (2008) Spacecraft observations of the martian atmosphere. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 36, 191-219. doi:10.1146/

comments powered by Disqus

Copyright © 2018 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.