Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Orbiter Camera

High-Resolution South Polar Cap Mosaics

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-223, 10 April 2000


The layered terrains of the polar regions of Mars are among the most exotic planetary landscapes in our Solar System. The layers exposed in the south polar residual cap, vividly shown in the top view, are thought to contain detailed records of Mars' climate history over the last 100 million years or so. The materials that comprise the south polar layers may include frozen carbon dioxide, water ice, and fine dust. The bottom picture shows complex erosional patterns that have developed on the south polar cap, perhaps by a combination of sublimation, wind erosion, and ground-collapse. Because the south polar terrains are so strange and new to human eyes, no one (yet) has entirely adequate explanations as to what is being seen.

These images were acquired by the Mars Orbiter Camera aboard the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft during the southern spring season in October 1999. Each of these two pictures is a mosaic of many individual MOC images acquired at about 12 m/pixel scale that completely cover the highest latitude (87°S) visible to MOC on each orbital pass over the polar region. Both mosaics cover areas of about 10 x 4 kilometers (6.2 x 2.5 miles) near 87°S, 10°W in the central region of the permanent--or residual--south polar cap. They show features at the scale of a small house. Sunlight illuminates each scene from the left. "Gaps" at the upper and lower right of the second mosaic, above, are areas that were not covered by MOC in October 1999.

Additional image formats/versions of the South Polar mosaics:
655 KByte JPG showing both pictures together
14 MByte TIFF showing both pictures together

Previous MOC images of the South Polar Cap:
Images from MGS Mapping Phase, 1999
Images from MGS Aerobraking 1 Phase, 1997

The south polar mosaic effort was undertaken by MOC science team members at Caltech and USGS Flagstaff. The pictures shown here were put together at the USGS Flagstaff Astrogeology Branch. For media purposes, the images should be credited as follows:

NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems/USGS Flagstaff

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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