Thermophysical Properties and Surface Heterogeneity of Landing Sites on Mars From Overlapping Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) Observations

Alexandra A. Ahern, A. Deanne Rogers, Christopher S. Edwards, Sylvain Piqueux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Orbitally derived thermal inertia (TI) values of surfaces allow for remote interpretation of rock and sediment physical characteristics. The evolving local times of the Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) mission have enabled surface temperature data collection over multiple seasons and local times over ∼9 Mars years (MY). We utilize this higher temporal resolution data set to separate TI values of individual materials within THEMIS pixels (100 m sampling). In this study, we focus on geologic units within Gusev, Gale, and Jezero crater landing sites to determine their respective TI and ground-truth our methods. We use the KRC model to predict temperatures for a range of homogeneous and two-component thermophysical mixing scenarios (laterally and vertically heterogeneous), and compare those to THEMIS brightness temperatures. The Gusev and Gale crater results are consistent with rover-based evaluations, indurated or clast-covered sands. The best-fit scenarios along the Jezero crater volcanic floor unit show low to moderate TI values representative of coarse sediment, volcaniclastic, or pyroclastic rocks. The light toned unit and western fan deposits both indicate sands and a moderate TI component; we interpret this as heavy fracturing within the rock. Difficulties in modeling some THEMIS temperatures are attributed to daily weather effects, local atmospheric dust variability, and real surface changes over time (e.g., dust deposition and removal); we also observe that some temperature observations lead to non-unique modeled physical solutions. Nevertheless, these methods can still rule out a significant range of material properties and provide meaningful geologic information about Mars’ surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020JE006713
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • KRC
  • Mars
  • surface
  • thermal inertia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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