MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-189, 15 November 1999
It is spring in the southern hemisphere of Mars, and the region shown here has recently emerged from beneath a winter coating of frost. Patches of frost (bright material) remain in the cracks that make up the edges of each polygon in the picture. The image covers a narrow strip of martian terrain only 1.5 km (0.9 mi) across at a resolution of 3 meters (10 ft) per pixel.
Polygons such as these are common in Earth's arctic and antarctic regions (see descriptions of Antarctic research and Antarctic pictures), and they usually indicate the presence of ice (i.e., frozen water) in the ground. Polygons form from the cycle of freezing and thawing of ground ice over the course of years, decades, and centuries. The fact that polygons are found on all surfaces in the Malea Planum scene shown here indicates that the ice is not too deeply buried because only a thin veneer (a few meters--or yards) of material appears to have covered the crater at the top of the scene.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
Other MGS MOC views of arctic- and antarctic-style polygons:
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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