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Atmospheric investigations with M2020 Perseverance/SuperCam

Presentation #318.02 in the session Mars’s Story as Told and Influenced by Dust and Water (Oral Presentation)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Atmospheric investigations with M2020 Perseverance/SuperCam

The M2020 Perseverance rover landed on Mars in February of 2021, with the main objective of studying the geological and astrobiological context of Jezero crater, collect samples for return to Earth, and prepare for human exploration [1]. To support these main objectives, time is also allocated for atmospheric research, some of which is being conducted with the SuperCam instrument suite. SuperCam includes spectrometers operating in both active and passive modes, and can be used to study the Martian atmosphere passively in several wavelength ranges [2]. In this work we have used the infrared channel, covering the 1.3-2.6 micrometer range, to obtain abundances of CO2 and H2O, as well as upper limits of CO.

The SuperCam passive spectroscopic atmospheric observations, dubbed “Passive Sky” measurements, are performed by pointing the camera into the sky at two distinct elevation angles, acquiring multiple spectra at each angle, and finding the average spectrum at each angle before taking the ratio of the low elevation angle spectrum to the high elevation angle spectrum. This technique was introduced with ChemCam on the MSL Curiosity rover, and is a proven technique to effectively remove the solar spectrum and instrument components in the signal [3].

The main target gas of SuperCam Passive Sky measurements is water vapor. The water vapor vertical distribution is of great interest as it is indicative of dynamical processes in the Martian atmosphere, and is key to understanding atmospheric escape [4]. In addition, variations in the very near-surface abundance can suggest the degree of interaction between the regolith and atmosphere [5]. Knowledge of the vertical profile has increased substantially in the recent decade as the use of stellar and solar occultation measurements have become available at Mars [6], yet the near surface distribution remains elusive. Observations from the Martian surface can play an important role in constraining the near-surface water content and thus aid in completing the picture of the vertical distribution of water vapor on Mars.

Around 60 Passive Sky observations have been processed; these are roughly uniformly distributed and span one Martian Year. The first results of gaseous abundances and dust properties retrieved with the IR channel are presented here.

[1] Farley et al 2020

[2] Maurice et al 2021

[3] McConnochie et al 2017

[4] Fedorova et al 2020

[5] Martinez et al 2017

[6] Aoki et al 2022

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