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The Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft measures The Tharsis Ridge.
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NASA/JPL

Altimetry

Altimetry is a term which describes a method of measuring the altitudes of things with remote spacecraft. It is usually performed with a laser. Laser altimeters bounce beams of light from the surface and back to the spacecraft to measure the heights of mountains and depths of valleys on remote planets. This is even done for our own planet. The figure shown here shows laser altimeter results from the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. The red line shows the relative heights of the ground underneath the spacecraft.

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AU

AU stands for Astronomical Units. It is a useful way to measure the distances in interplanetary space. It is the distance between the Earth and the Sun, which is about 93 million miles. For reference,...more

The Spiral of the IMF

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Spiral Path of Material

For a planet to be affected by a blob of material being ejected by the sun, the planet must be in the path of the blob, as shown in this picture. The Earth and its magnetosphere are shown in the bottom...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF