Ghost Craters of Utopia Planitia
Ghost Craters of Utopia Planitia
ESP_069243_2030  Science Theme: Future Exploration/Landing Sites
Sometimes we see circles on the Martian landscape with no apparent cause, such as in this picture of Utopia Planitia.

Landscapes have rich histories, and what’s happening here is likely the result of a long sequence of events. Impact craters are common throughout Mars’ history. This area of Utopia Planitia has been buried by material and some of these craters have been buried with it. Loose material compacts over time and if there was the same thickness of material everywhere, then the surface would drop in height by the same amount everywhere.

However, there’s more of this material inside the buried craters than outside, so there’s more compaction and dropdown of the surface in the circular area above the buried crater. This stretches the surface and causes the cracks to appear around the edge. The crater may be long lost from view, but it’s still affecting the landscape today.

Written by: Shane Byrne (narration: Tre Gibbs)  (13 July 2021)
Acquisition date
04 May 2021

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
284.8 km (177.0 miles)

Original image scale range
57.3 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~172 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
50 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
48°, with the Sun about 42° above the horizon

Solar longitude
40.7°, Northern Spring

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  7.4°
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IRB color
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Merged IRB
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Merged RGB
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IRB color
map-projected   (111MB)

Black and white
map-projected  (104MB)
non-map           (141MB)

IRB color
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non-map           (108MB)

Merged IRB
map projected  (228MB)

Merged RGB
map-projected  (211MB)

RGB color
non map           (103MB)
10K (TIFF)

B&W label
Color label
Merged IRB label
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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

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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.