An Icy Crater on Mars
An Icy Crater on Mars
ESP_032118_1085  Science Theme: Impact Processes
HiRISE has observed more than 200 new craters on Mars. These craters are first visible as new dark spots by the MRO's Context Camera (CTX), which can view much larger areas, and then imaged by HiRISE for a close-up look. The dark spots are most easily seen when the surface is light and dusty, so most of the new craters that we find are in dusty areas like the large volcanoes on Tharsis.

Mars has ground ice at high latitudes, and when new craters form there, they dig up the ice. Until this image, this had only been seen on the northern plains, because the southern highlands have less dusty surfaces and it is hard to find new craters there. This crater is on an outlier of the south polar layered deposits, a thick stack of layers near the South Pole made of ice and dust.

It is not a surprise to find that these layered deposits are icy! However, the ice must be clean (without much dust) to stay bright long enough for HiRISE to see it, which gives us another piece of evidence that the layers are mostly ice. The layered deposits around here are covered with a layer of dust, but this crater tells us that the cover isn’t very thick.

This crater also threw out debris that formed rays, including some very small “secondary” craters. None of these smaller craters was large enough to dig up ice.

Over time, finding more of these craters all over Mars will help us to understand how much ice the planet has and where it is located.

Written by: Colin Dundas  (17 July 2013)
Acquisition date
03 June 2013

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
248.8 km (154.6 miles)

Original image scale range
25.0 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~75 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
64°, with the Sun about 26° above the horizon

Solar longitude
329.4°, Northern Winter

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North azimuth:  101°
Sub-solar azimuth:  54.0°
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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.