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Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Orbiter Camera

Frost-free North Polar Layers in the Good Old Summertime

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-1604, 17 October 2006

An exposure of layers in the martian north polar region.
NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

The middle portion of the northern summer season is the ideal time of year to capture relatively dust- and haze-free views of martian north polar terrain. This year, much more of the north polar cap has sublimed away than has been evident in previous northern summers going back to 1999, when Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) began the Mapping Phase of the mission. This MGS Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image shows a nearly ice-free view of layers exposed by erosion in the north polar region. The light-toned patches are remnants of water ice frost. The layers are generally considered by the Mars scientific community to be record of past depositions of ice and dust. This picture is located near 82.5°N, 118.6°W, and covers an area about 3 km by 10 km (1.9 by 6.2 miles). Sunlight illuminates the scene from the upper left; the image was acquired on 22 September 2006.

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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.