Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera Release: MOC2-37A, -37B, -37C Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera Image ID: 567516813.7306 P073-06
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CAPTIONThe linear features that run from the lower left to upper right in the MOC image are layers that have been exposed by erosion. The various textures among the layered deposits in the permanent south polar ice cap suggest that the different layers may have different compositions or physical properties (e.g., some may be "harder" or "softer" than others).
This image was taken during the spring season; the layers were still covered with ice/snow and appeared bright. The Mariner 9 context image (B) from 1972 and Viking 2 image (A) from 1977 show what this terrain looks like in the summer--the layered units are clear of seasonal frost and permanent ice and appear dark. Based on previous research, layers in the polar regions of Mars are thought to consist of a mixture of dust (~5%) and ice (~95%) that has accumulated over hundreds of millions of years as the polar caps grow and shrink each year.
Like sedimentary rocks on Earth, the layering might indicate a combination of changes in climate and changes in the type of material being deposited over time. These layers have much potential to provide clues about the past climate of Mars--so much so that the next U.S. spacecraft to land on Mars, the Mars Polar Lander, is scheduled to arrive in the south polar regions in December 1999.
The picture is a subframe of MOC image #7306, centered near 86.9°S latitude, 349.3°W longitude. It was taken on December 25, 1997, at 3:33 AM PST, on Mars Global Surveyor's 73rd orbit around Mars. The subframe covers an area about 15 x 14 km (9.3 x 8.7 miles) at about 25 m (81 feet) per picture element.
This image was featured as Figure 6b in Malin et al., "Early Views of the Martian Surface from the Mars Orbiter Camera of Mars Global Surveyor," Science, v. 279, no. 5357, pp. 1681-1685.
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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