A South Polar Pit Or An Impact Crater?

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

May 31, 2017 – This observation from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show it is late summer in the Southern hemisphere, so the Sun is low in the sky and subtle topography is accentuated in orbital images.

We see many shallow pits in the bright residual cap of carbon dioxide ice (also called “Swiss cheese terrain”). There is also a deeper, circular formation that penetrates through the ice and dust. This might be an impact crater or it could be a collapse pit.

The map is projected here at a scale of 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) per pixel. [The original image scale is 49.7 centimeters (19.6 inches) per pixel (with 2 x 2 binning); objects on the order of 149 centimeters (67.3 inches) across are resolved.] North is up.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, has been orbiting Mars since 2006. The powerful HiRise camera was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado.

The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems collaborates with JPL to operate the spacecraft.