Mystery Martian Morphology of the Month
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Mystery Martian Morphology of the Month
ESP_031268_2115  Science Theme: Tectonic Processes
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This image covers many shallow irregular pits with raised rims, concentrated along ridges and other topographic features. How did these odd features form?

One idea is that they could be from sublimation of shallow lenses of nearly pure ice, but why do the pits have raised rims? They can't be impact craters with such fortuitous alignment and irregular margins. They aren't wind-blown deposits because there are many boulders, too big to be moved by the wind. There are younger wind-blown drifts on top of the pits, and there's no clear connection to volcanism.

Some speculate that there were ancient oceans over this region--could that somehow explain these features? Ancient glaciation is another possibility, perhaps depositing ice-rich debris next to topographic obstacles.Future images of this region may provide clues, but for now this is a mystery.

Written by: Alfred McEwen   (1 May 2013)



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Acquisition date:28 March 2013 Local Mars time: 2:20 PM
Latitude (centered):30.959° Longitude (East):339.402°
Range to target site:293.8 km (183.6 miles)Original image scale range:58.8 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~176 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale:50 cm/pixel and North is upMap projection:Equirectangular
Emission angle:2.6° Phase angle:62.5°
Solar incidence angle:64°, with the Sun about 26° above the horizon Solar longitude:290.8°, Northern Winter
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North azimuth:97° Sub-solar azimuth:312.0°
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North azimuth:270°Sub solar azimuth:126.1°

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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.