Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Orbiter Camera

Mars South Polar Cap "Fingerprint" Terrain

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-217, 8 March 2000


This picture is illuminated by sunlight from the upper left.

Some portions of the martian south polar residual cap have long, somewhat curved troughs instead of circular pits. These appear to form in a layer of material that may be different than that in which "swiss cheese" circles and pits form, and none of these features has any analog in the north polar cap or elsewhere on Mars. This picture shows the "fingerprint" terrain as a series of long, narrow depressions considered to have formed by collapse and widening by sublimation of ice. Unlike the north polar cap, the south polar region stays cold enough in summer to retain frozen carbon dioxide. Viking Orbiter observations during the late 1970s showed that very little water vapor comes off the south polar cap during summer, indicating that any frozen water that might be there remains solid throughout the year.

This Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image was obtained in early southern spring on August 4, 1999. It shows an area 3 x 5 kilometers (1.9 x 3.1 miles) at a resolution of about 7.3 meters (24 ft) per pixel. The image is located near 86.0°S, 53.9° W.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

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, CA. 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, CA and Denver, CO.

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