An Application Using Triaxial Ellipsoids to Model Martian Dust at the Phoenix Landing Site

Friday, 19 December 2014
Emily L Mason and Mark T Lemmon, Texas A & M University, College Station, TX, United States
Martian atmospheric dust is not spherical and contains irregular shaped particles. This irregularity adds complexity to models determining radiative heating of the atmosphere. Particle size has been studied extensively with remote sensing, but particle shape is still poorly understood. Bi et al. show that an assortment of triaxial ellipsoids provides a good analog for the scattering properties of terrestrial dust aerosols. In addition Z. Meng et al. (2010) have developed a database containing single-scattering properties of irregularly shaped dust particles with pre-defined microphysical and optical parameters. The tabulation allows quick and efficient use of the results from time-consuming models and can be applied to the Martian atmosphere. The landing site for Phoenix was in a region that fell within the northern seasonal ice cap and was active during a period of large dust upwelling. The lander’s Surface Stereo Imager performed several cross-sky brightness surveys to constrain the size distribution and scattering and absorption properties of the airborne dust in the Martian northern polar environment. Using the database, single scattering properties adapted to the Martian atmosphere can be used to determine bulk scattering properties of the medium at the Phoenix landing site. We will present a comparison of triaxial ellipsoids with spheroidal models using Phoenix spectrophotometric data and show that triaxial ellipsoid properties can produce a good fit to the observed data. In addition we will provide initial results of polarization to test the triaxial ellipsoid hypothesis.