A Slice of Polar Layer Cake
A Slice of Polar Layer Cake
ESP_062216_2660  Science Theme: Polar Geology
The Martian ice cap is like a cake with every layer telling a story. In this case, the story is one of climate change on Mars.

In this image is an exposed section of the north polar layered deposits (NPLD). Like a delicious slice of layered tiramisu, the NPLD is made up of water-ice and dust particles stacked one on top of the other. However, instead of icing, layers are topped with seasonal carbon dioxide frost. We can observe lingering frost adhering to one of the layers.

The high-resolution and color capabilities of HiRISE provide details on the variations in the layers. Scientists are also using radar data, which show us that they have continuity in the subsurface. During deposition, these complex layers might encapsulate tiny air pockets from the atmosphere which, if sampled, could be studied to understand linkages to previous climates.

In the end, it’s not always a piece of cake studying NPLD on Mars but, where there is cake, there is hope!

Written by: Chimira Andres, Livio Leonardo Tornabene, Leah Sacks, and Vidhya Ganesh Rangarajan  (14 February 2020)
Acquisition date
04 November 2019

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
318.8 km (198.2 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/pixel

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
61°, with the Sun about 29° above the horizon

Solar longitude
102.2°, Northern Summer

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  132°
Sub-solar azimuth:  318.7°
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   (693MB)

IRB color
map-projected   (375MB)

Black and white
map-projected  (295MB)
non-map           (325MB)

IRB color
map projected  (105MB)
non-map           (282MB)

Merged IRB
map projected  (200MB)

Merged RGB
map-projected  (188MB)

RGB color
non map           (266MB)
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.