Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Orbiter Camera

Happy Valentine's Day From Mars!

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-207, 11 February 2000


Happy St. Valentine's Day from the Red Planet! The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) captured this unique view of a bright, heart-shaped mesa in the south polar region on November 26, 1999. This feature is located in the Promethei Rupes region near 79.6°S, 298.3°W. Sunlight illuminates the scene from the lower left. The heart is about 255 meters (279 yards) across. The presence of this mesa indicates that the darker, rough terrain that surrounds it was once covered by a layer of the bright material.

Earlier in 1999, MGS MOC saw another valentine heart, but instead of a mesa, the feature was expressed as a pit. You can view that image by CLICKING HERE.

Note added 1:45 p.m. PST, 11 February 2000:
If the heart looks to you like it is a pit (negative relief) rather than a mesa (positive relief), that is because there are two effects that make this a challenging object to see. Sunlight illuminates the heart from the lower left, thus the lower left wall of the heart looks bright because it is reflecting this sunlight. The problem here is frost. Some very small amounts of residual frost are seen on the slopes facing away from the sunlight (toward the lower right and toward the top). MOC images in the martian polar regions can sometimes fool the eye because a frosted slope might at first glance seem to be a sunlit slope. This picture was taken in late southern spring in a region that spends each winter and most of each spring completely buried in bright frost.

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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