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This graph illustrates one way in which the altimeter instrument studies the planet.
Click on image for full size
Image from: NASA/JPL

Mars Global Surveyor Measures Martian Global Hemispheres

Mars Global Surveyor carries an instrument which measures the heights of things. This instrument is called an altimeter, or "altitude-meter".

The picture to the left shows Mars Global Surveyor's measurement of the giant bluff which separates the southern and northern hemispheres of Mars. The red line shows the lower, northern plains, then the abrupt bluff which separates the northern plains from the highlands of the south. The height of the bluff is shown in both kilometers and in miles. It can be seen from the picture that the southern hemisphere as a whole is much more elevated than the northern hemisphere. The southern hemisphere is also much older than the nothern hemisphere. The different sizes of the two hemispheres is suggestive that Mars has a giant southern continent. More about the peculiar surface of Mars can be found in the discussion of the Martian global surface. A nice picture of the giant, continent sized southern hemisphere can be found in the discussion of the Tharsis Ridge.


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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