Crater on the North Polar Layered Deposits
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Crater on the North Polar Layered Deposits
PSP_009663_2635  Science Theme: Polar Geology
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The north polar layered deposits, and the bright ice cap that covers them, are very young (by geologic standards) features. To try and figure out the age of an area, or how quickly it's being resurfaced, planetary scientists count up the number of craters at different sizes. An older surface has more time to accumulate more craters whereas a younger surface, or one that has a lot of geologic activity that destroys craters, doesn't have many impact craters.

These polar deposits have a very low crater count so it is possible that the ice cap (bright white in this image) might only by about 10,000 years old and the surface of the layered deposits (orange-brown in this image) may be only a few million years old. This sounds like a long time but is very short compared to other surfaces on Mars.

HiRISE is enabling a more detailed study of these polar craters and the target of this observation is visible in the center of the image. This crater proved to be a surprise in a few ways. Its shape is non-circular which is quite unusual for an impact crater. One possibility is that flow of the ice beneath the surrounding terrain has deformed the crater; however, ice-flow rates are thought to be very low on Mars today.

The crater also contains a patch of bright ice despite being surrounded by terrain that has mostly lost its ice cover. This seems typical for these polar craters and it may be that ice within these craters is protected from ablation by shading from the crater walls.

Written by: Shane Byrne   (15 October 2008)

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Acquisition date:18 August 2008 Local Mars time:13:56
Latitude (centered):83.440° Longitude (East):112.952°
Range to target site:319.0 km (199.4 miles)Original image scale range:31.9 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~96 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale:25 cm/pixelMap projection:Polarstereographic
Emission angle:0.3° Phase angle:61.3°
Solar incidence angle:62°, with the Sun about 28° above the horizon Solar longitude:114.4°, 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.