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NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Don't Get Lost in the North Polar Ice Cap
ESP_035295_2670  Science Theme: Polar Geology
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A bright ice cap of frozen water covers the North Pole of Mars. In the winter, thin coverings of carbon dioxide and water frost covers this area and these frosts finally disappear at the end of the Martian spring season.

In this image, the winter frosts are about to disappear and we can begin to see the surface features of the ice. The ice cap would be a bad place to get lost: it's one of the smoothest, flattest places on Mars so there are no landmarks visible. The surface features are gently rolling hummocks (or small mounds) and hollows about a meter (3 feet) in height and about 20 meters (60 feet) across. This monotonous landscape continues for hundreds of kilometers in every direction with this same repeating pattern.

Scientists do not know what makes this pattern so uniform over such large distances; we acquire HiRISE images like this one to look for small differences in these icy features from one place to another. Understanding this surface can help us understand the current climate and meteorological conditions at the North Pole of the Red Planet.

Written by: Shane Byrne (audio: Tre Gibbs)   (5 March 2014)

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Acquisition date:05 February 2014 Local Mars time:11:35 AM
Latitude (centered):86.810° Longitude (East):135.772°
Range to target site:319.5 km (199.7 miles)Original image scale range:32.0 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:61.8°
Solar incidence angle:62°, with the Sun about 28° above the horizon Solar longitude:85.9°, Northern Spring
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North azimuth:146° Sub-solar azimuth:318.1°
For map-projected products
North azimuth:134.2°Sub solar azimuth:307.9°

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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.