Investigations of the Mars Upper Atmosphere with ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter
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The Martian mesosphere and thermosphere, the region above about 60 km, is not the primary target of the ExoMars 2016 mission but its Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) can explore it and address many interesting issues, either in-situ during the aerobraking period or remotely during the regular mission. In the aerobraking phase TGO peeks into thermospheric densities and temperatures, in a broad range of latitudes and during a long continuous period. TGO carries two instruments designed for the detection of trace species, NOMAD and ACS, which will use the solar occultation technique. Their regular sounding at the terminator up to very high altitudes in many different molecular bands will represent the first time that an extensive and precise dataset of densities and hopefully temperatures are obtained at those altitudes and local times on Mars. But there are additional capabilities in TGO for studying the upper atmosphere of Mars, and we review them briefly. Our simulations suggest that airglow emissions from the UV to the IR might be observed outside the terminator. If eventually confirmed from orbit, they would supply new information about atmospheric dynamics and variability. However, their optimal exploitation requires a special spacecraft pointing, currently not considered in the regular operations but feasible in our opinion. We discuss the synergy between the TGO instruments, specially the wide spectral range achieved by combining them. We also encourage coordinated operations with other Mars-observing missions capable of supplying simultaneous measurements of its upper atmosphere.
CitationLópez-Valverde, M.A.; Gerard, J.-C.; González-Galindo, F.; Vandaele, A.-C.; Thomas, I.; Korablev, O.; Ignatiev, N.; Fedorova, A.; Montmessin, F.; Määttänen, A.; Guilbon, S.; Lefevre, F.; Patel, M.R.; Jiménez-Monferrer, S.; García-Comas, M.; Cardesin, A.; Wilson, C.F.; Clancy, R.T.; Kleinböhl, A.; McCleese, D.J.; Kass, D.M.; Schneider, N.M.; Chaffin, M.S.; López-Moreno, J.J.; Rodríguez, J. (2018). Investigations of the Mars Upper Atmosphere with ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. , Space Science Reviews, Vol. 214, Issue 1, A29, DOI: 10.1007/s11214-017-0463-4.