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North Polar Permanent Cap Crater

Highlighted Portion of HiRISE Image PSP_001406_2680

The north polar permanent ice cap covers polar layered deposits and is one of the youngest formations on Mars. Despite being nearly a million square kilometers in area (about twice the size of California) there are very few impact craters known to exist on its surface. This image shows what is currently the largest known of these craters, about 80 meters (262 feet) across. The crater is heavily degraded and has almost been completely erased. Planetary surfaces accumulate craters over time and scientists use the abundance of craters of different sizes to estimate the age of the surface. The lack of craters on the permanent ice cap indicates that it is being resurfaced very quickly. This resurfacing may be due to either deposition or removal of ice. Surrounding and overprinted on the crater is the usual scalloped texture of the ice cap. These ice pits may be currently forming due to ablation (evaporation and wind erosion).

Image PSP_001406_2680 was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft on November 14, 2006. The complete image is centered at 88.0 degrees latitude, 135.0 degrees East longitude. The range to the target site was 318.5 km (199.0 miles). At this distance the image scale is 31.9 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~96 cm across are resolved. The image shown here [below] has been map-projected to 25 cm/pixel. The image was taken at a local Mars time of 10:43 AM and the scene is illuminated from the west with a solar incidence angle of 71 degrees, thus the sun was about 19 degrees above the horizon. At a solar longitude of 135.1 degrees, the season on Mars is Northern Summer.

HiRISE Image PSP_001406_2680

Images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment and additional information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are available online at:




For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.

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The highest resolution image is provided in the JPEG-2000 (JP2) format. A JP2 viewer application and browser plug-in may be freely obtained for Mac OS X and Windows platforms: ExpressView by LizardTech, a Celartem Technology Inc. company.

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