McMurdo Crater
McMurdo Crater
ESP_014324_0955  Science Theme: Impact Processes
The South Polar Layered Deposits are a stack of ice and dust about 3 kilometers thick. The many layers that make up this feature are of great interest to planetary scientists because, just as with ice sheets on Earth, they are thought to contain a record of the planet’s climate in previous times.

As with the rest of Mars, impact craters form continuously on these polar deposits. Rarely, a very large impact will occur and the crater will excavate all the way through this ice-sheet to the rocky terrain underneath. This is what happened in the case of McMurdo, a crater roughly 20 kilometers across which punched through the ice-sheet in the past.

This HiRISE image shows the wall of this crater, only half of which has been preserved until current times. You can see the many layers that comprise the South Polar Layered Deposits exposed here. Scientists study exposures like this to try to understand the length of the climatic record that is recorded in the icy material at the poles of Mars.

Written by: Shane Byrne  (16 September 2009)
Acquisition date
16 August 2009

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
249.8 km (155.2 miles)

Original image scale range
50.3 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~151 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
50 cm/pixel

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
72°, with the Sun about 18° above the horizon

Solar longitude
322.3°, Northern Winter

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  114°
Sub-solar azimuth:  54.8°
Black and white
map projected  non-map

IRB color
map projected  non-map

Merged IRB
map projected

Merged RGB
map projected

RGB color
non-map projected

Black and white
map-projected   (358MB)

IRB color
map-projected   (192MB)

Black and white
map-projected  (223MB)
non-map           (228MB)

IRB color
map projected  (97MB)
non-map           (208MB)

Merged IRB
map projected  (324MB)

Merged RGB
map-projected  (311MB)

RGB color
non map           (178MB)
10K (TIFF)

B&W label
Color label
Merged IRB label
Merged RGB label
EDR products

IRB: infrared-red-blue
RGB: red-green-blue
About color products (PDF)

Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
For scale, use JPEG/JP2 black & white map-projected images

All of the images produced by HiRISE and accessible on this site are within the public domain: there are no restrictions on their usage by anyone in the public, including news or science organizations. We do ask for a credit line where possible:

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. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.