Polar Cliffs and Falling Blocks
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Polar Cliffs and Falling Blocks
ESP_027451_2635  Science Theme: Polar Geology
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There is an ice sheet at the North Pole of Mars that is a few miles thick at its center. At some places (like in this image) it ends in steep cliffs that can be about 800 meters (2,600 feet) high.

The slopes of these cliffs are almost vertical which causes slab-like blocks of ice to break off and crash down to the surrounding plains. Dense networks of cracks cover these icy cliff faces making it easier for these blocks to break free. We've seen new debris at the base of many of these cliffs appearing between successive HiRISE images, so we regularly monitor sites like this to check for new blocks that have fallen. Understanding how these cliffs are formed helps us understand the climatic record stored in the ice sheet itself.

Have any new blockfalls occurred here? Try and compare this image with ESP_018959_2635 (taken almost exactly one Martian year ago) and check for yourself!


Written by: Shane Byrne   (11 July 2012)

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Acquisition date:04 June 2012 Local Mars time:13:44
Latitude (centered):83.618° Longitude (East):119.827°
Range to target site:320.5 km (200.3 miles)Original image scale range:32.1 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~96 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale:25 cm/pixelMap projection:Polarstereographic
Emission angle:0.1° Phase angle:62.8°
Solar incidence angle:63°, with the Sun about 27° above the horizon Solar longitude:120.0°, Northern Summer

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For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona. The image data were processed using the U.S. Geological Survey’s ISIS3 software.