Geologic History Recorded in the South Polar Layered Deposits
Geologic History Recorded in the South Polar Layered Deposits
PSP_004742_0990  Science Theme: Polar Geology


The polar layered deposits on Mars are thought to be composed of varying amounts of water ice and dust. The variations in the relative amounts of ice and dust are probably caused by recent climate changes on Mars, similar to ice ages on Earth.

This image of the south polar layered deposits shows many layers, some of which are cut off or truncated against other layers (near the center of the image). These truncations are probably due to periods of erosion separating periods of deposition.

After nearly horizontal layers are deposited, they can be partly eroded (perhaps by winds) before more layers are deposited over them. In this image, there is evidence for at least two such episodes of erosion and burial. These types of observations are useful to Mars scientists as they try to unravel the climate history of Mars.

Written by: Ken Herkenhoff  (12 September 2007)
Acquisition date
31 July 2007

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
248.1 km (154.2 miles)

Original image scale range
24.8 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~74 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
287.1°, Northern Winter

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  108°
Sub-solar azimuth:  47.8°
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non-map           (627MB)

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Merged IRB
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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/JPL/University of Arizona

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.