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Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Orbiter Camera

Seasons Greetings from the Martian North Pole

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-266, 22 December 2000


(A) North Polar Cap Layers and Frost on the First Day of Summer
86.5°N, 324.0°W --- 16 December 2000 --- illuminated from lower left
10 km (6.2 mi) wide by 3 km (1.9 mi) high

(B) North Polar Ice Cap Surface
85.7°N, 307.9°W --- 2 December 2000 --- illuminated from upper left
2 km (1.2 mi) wide by 0.9 km (0.6 mi) high

(C) Complex exposures of North Polar layered material
87.0°N, 263.8°W --- 12 December 2000 --- illuminated from upper left
10 km (6.2 mi) wide by 3 km (1.9 mi) high

On Mars, Northern Hemisphere Summer (and Southern Hemisphere Winter) began on December 16, 2000. In this December holiday season, many children across the U.S. and elsewhere are perhaps anticipating an annual visit from a generous and jolly red-suited soul from the Earth's North Pole. As the December holidays were approaching, the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) was busy acquiring new views of the region around the martian north pole. The three best views obtained this month are shown here. The top (A) and bottom (C) views show many layers exposed and eroded into the form of ridges and troughs on shallow slopes within the martian north polar cap. The middle (B) view is a picture of the rugged, eroded polar ice cap surface itself. The layers are believed to have formed over tens to hundreds of thousands of years by deposition of dust and ice each cold martian winter. These surfaces today all appear to have been eroded. The brightest material in each image is frost---temperatures at this time of year indicate that the frost is composed of frozen water. In winter, temperatures can be cold enough to freeze carbon dioxide, as well.

Additional Views of Martian North Polar Features:

Images Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

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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