NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
The sharp, nearly straight line that runs diagonally across the center of this April 2003 Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image is an albedo boundary. Albedo is a term that refers to reflectance of sunlight. A surface with a low albedo is one that appears dark because it reflects less light than a high albedo (bright) surface. On Mars, albedo boundaries occur between two materials of differing texture, particle size, or composition, or some combination of these three factors. The boundary shown here is remarkable because it is so sharp and straight. This is caused by wind. Most likely, the entire surface was once covered with the lower-albedo (darker) material that is now seen in the upper half of the image. At some later time, wind stripped away this darker material from the surfaces in the lower half of the image. The difference in albedo here might be related to composition, and possibly particle size. This picture is located near the southwest rim of Schiaparelli Basin at 5.5°S, 345.9°W. The picture covers an area 3 km (1.9 mi) wide and is illuminated by sunlight from the left.
Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, California. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, California and Denver, Colorado.