Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Orbiter Camera

Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) Low Resolution Images:
The Regional Dust Storm of November-December 1997


Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera Release:          MOC2-40
Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera Image IDs:        565054300.5001                                                          

MOC wide angle, red-band image #5001. (Click here for large (848 KB) version).

You may need to adjust the images for the gamma of your monitor to insure proper viewing.

Note: This MOC image is made available in order to share with the public the excitement of new discoveries being made via the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. The image may be reproduced only if the image is credited to "Malin Space Science Systems/NASA". Release of this image does not constitute a release of scientific data. The image and its caption should not be referenced in the scientific literature. Full data releases to the scientific community are scheduled by the Mars Global Surveyor Project and NASA Planetary Data System. Typically, data will be released after a 6 month calibration and validation period.

Click Here for more information on MGS data release and archiving plans.


This MOC wide-angle view shows a large, regional dust storm in Noachis Terra on November 26, 1997. The dust storm is the large, cloudy feature in the lower two-thirds of the image. The seasonal south polar frost cap can be seen at the bottom. The large, circular feature just left of center near the top is the impact basin, Schiaparelli. Schiaparelli Basin is about 470 kilometers (292 miles) wide.

Dust storms are fairly common in the martian southern hemisphere during the spring and summer seasons. Sometimes--as was seen by Mariner 9 and the Soviet Union's Mars 2 and Mars 3 spacecraft in 1971--these storms can get so big that they obscure the entire planet. The dust storm of 1997 never became global, but it was large enough (greater than 2,500 km (1,550 miles) in size) that it would have covered a third of the continental United States if it were on Earth.

MOC monitored this big dust storm into December 1997. It was most intense between November 26 and December 2, then faded into a haziness that persisted for several weeks. Smaller storms closer to the south polar cap were reported afterward by the Mars Global Surveyor Thermal Emission Spectrometer team during the weeks that followed. The dust storm activity made the upper atmosphere of Mars slightly more dense--this effect was detected by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft during its aerobraking passes during the same time that the storm was imaged by MOC.

MOC image 5001 was obtained during Mars Global Surveyor's 50th orbit on November 26, 1997. The image was featured as Figure 7c in Malin et al., "Early Views of the Martian Surface from the Mars Orbiter Camera of Mars Global Surveyor," Science, v. 279, no. 5357, pp. 1681-1685; in which it was erroneously reported to be a "blue-filter" image (it is a red-filter image).

Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, CA. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, CA and Denver, CO.

To MSSS Home Page