Impact Crater on the South Polar Layered Deposits
Impact Crater on the South Polar Layered Deposits
PSP_005392_0995  Science Theme: Polar Geology
This image covers a portion of the ice-rich south polar layered deposits. Layers in the Mars polar regions are of great interest because layers in ice on the Earth, as in the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps, are known to contain records of past atmospheric, environmental, and climate conditions. By studying Mars polar layers, we hope to be able to understand the past climate and history of water on the red planet.

Of particular interest is the small, approximately 330 meter (360 yard) diameter impact crater. The number of impact craters on a planetary surface is often used to estimate the age of that surface (because the older a surface is, the more time that surface has had to accumulate craters, and thus the more craters that surface will have on it, assuming a constant cratering rate). The polar layered deposits on Mars are believed to be very young because there are no large craters on them and very few small craters. The high resolution of HiRISE will enable these craters to be studied in detail, perhaps allowing the number of craters—and thus the surface age—to be better constrained.

A problem with using craters to determine age on the icy polar layered deposits is that erosion of the icy substrate and relaxation of crater topography (i. e., relief becoming more gentle) is probably more rapid on ice than on harder rocky surfaces. A detailed study of craters in ice will help better to understand this process of how craters in ice degrade, or deteriorate, with time. Perhaps then we will know how to use the number and distribution of craters over the icy polar layered deposits in constraining the geologic and climate history of the Mars polar regions.

Written by: Patrick Russell  (26 December 2007)
Acquisition date
20 September 2007

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
249.4 km (155.0 miles)

Original image scale range
49.9 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~150 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
50 cm/pixel

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
67°, with the Sun about 23° above the horizon

Solar longitude
317.2°, Northern Winter

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  107°
Sub-solar azimuth:  54.3°
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Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
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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.