Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Orbiter Camera

Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) Low Resolution Images:
A Springtime View of the Retreating Mars South Polar Ice Cap


Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera Release:          MOC2-38
Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera Image IDs:        566912743.6701 (P076-01)
                                                           567015491.6801 (P068-01) 
                                                           567117391.6901 (P069-01)
                                                           567218289.7001 (P070-01)
                                                           567318308.7101 (P071-01)
                                                           567417432.7201 (P072-01)
                                                           567515469.7301 (P073-01)

Polar stereographic projection of a mosaic of portions of MOC wide angle, red-band images 6701, 6801, 6901, 7001, 7101, 7201, and 7301. Grid represents latitude (circles) and longitude (lines) in units of degrees where negative numbers indicate degrees latitude south of the equator, and longitudes are relative to 0° to 360° west of the prime meridian. Sun illumination is generally from the right. (Click here for large, 1.4 MB version) .

You may need to adjust the images for the gamma of your monitor to insure proper viewing.

Note: The MOC images are made available in order to share with the public the excitement of new discoveries being made via the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. The images may be reproduced only if the images are credited to "Malin Space Science Systems/NASA". Release of an image does not constitute a release of scientific data. An image and its caption should not be referenced in the scientific literature. Full data releases to the scientific community are scheduled by the Mars Global Surveyor Project and NASA Planetary Data System. Typically, data will be released after a 6 month calibration and validation period.

Click Here for more information on MGS data release and archiving plans.


This is a mosaic of MOC wide angle images showing the the seasonal south polar ice cap as it appeared December 18-25, 1997. At this time, the southern hemisphere of Mars was in the middle of the spring season, and the seasonal frost cap had retreated to about 70°S-75°S latitude. The cap had been at its maximum extent during winter back in mid-July 1997, when it extended as far north as 45°S in some places. Winter ended and spring began at about the same time that Mars Global Surveyor went into orbit on September 12, 1997 (UTC). Summer in the southern hemisphere subsequently started around February 8, 1998.

Note that along the edges of the frost cap in this December 1997 picture, there are some bright, circular patches-- these are craters that have ice, frost, and/or fog from sublimating H2O and CO2 within them.

The bright "peninsula" of frost/ice located around 70°S, 320°W (upper right corner) is a feature that has been seen from Earth for centuries (using ground-based telescopes). It used to be called "The Mountains of Mitchel" and was thought for many years to be a snow-capped mountain range. Pictures from the Mariner 6 and 7 missions in 1969 revealed that this region is not mountainous but cratered, with slopes of the craters preserving the frost.

This mosaic of MOC images from Orbits 67 through 73 was featured as Figure 7a 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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