Image of MCS instrument


The Mars Climate Sounder is called MCS for short. MCS views the Martian atmosphere in visible and infrared light to measure the temperature, humidity and dust content of the Martian atmosphere at 3-mile intervals (5 kilometers). The atmospheric profiles that are produced help predict Martian weather and climate.

Tech Specs

Main Job To observe the temperature, humidity, and dust content of the Martian atmosphere, making measurements that show variations in Mars' current weather and climate.
Mass ~19.8 pounds (9 kilograms)
Power 11 Watts
Data Return The MCS observation cycle consists of two-second signal integration intervals, interspersed every 34 seconds with instrument views of space.
Spectral Range and Channels 0.3 to 45.0 μm in nine spectral channels
Focal Ratio and Field of View f/1.7; Detector IFOV: 3.6 x 6.2 mrad 5.0 x 8.6 km (at limb); Instrument IFOV: 75 x 75 mrad 105 x 105 km (at limb)

Mars Climate Sounder

The MCS (Mars Climate Sounder) observes the temperature, humidity, and dust content of the martian atmosphere, making measurements that show variations in Mars' current weather and climate.

Scientists use these measurements to understand how the martian atmosphere circulates and varies over time. The measurements also help explain how and why the martian polar caps vary in response to the atmosphere and the energy input from the Sun.

How Mars Climate Sounder works

A sounder is an instrument that measures changes in atmospheric temperature or composition with height. Mars Climate Sounder "sees" in nine channels across the visible and infrared ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum. The visible range is the equivalent of what the human eye can see. The infrared range corresponds roughly to heat, being able to "see" how hot something is. One channel in the visible and near-infrared range (0.3-3.0 microns) is used to understand how solar energy interacts with the atmosphere and the surface, providing insight into martian climate. Eight channels in the thermal infrared range (12-50 microns) are used to measure temperature, pressure, water vapor, and dust.

Mars Climate Sounder looks at the horizon of Mars from orbit to observe the atmosphere in vertical slices. It takes measurements every 5 kilometers (3 miles) down into each slice through the atmosphere. These "profiles" are combined into daily, three-dimensional, global weather maps for both daytime and nighttime. The weather maps show temperature, pressure, humidity, and dust in various layers of the atmosphere -- the same kind of information meteorologists use to understand and predict weather and climate on Earth.

The Principal Investigator (lead scientist) for Mars Climate Sounder is Daniel McCleese from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology.