A Feast for the Eyes: A Large Collection of Stunning High Resolution Views of Martian Polar Terrain has been Released

By Keith Cowing
March 8, 2000
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Mars Polar TerrainNASA has released a large collection of images from the Mars Global Surveyor providing an unprecedented close-up view of Mars’ northern and southern polar caps. Some of the landforms are familiar to terrestrial viewers while others are utterly alien.

According to Malin Space Science Systems (“High Resolution Views Comparing the Martian North and South Polar Residual Caps”, MGS MOC Releases MOC2-210 to MOC2-219): “The surfaces of the two “residual” martian polar ice caps are very
different from each other. The north polar cap has a relatively flat,
pitted surface that in some places resembles cottage cheese and in others
looks like the surface of a sponge
that you might use in your kitchen sink. The south polar cap has larger pits,
troughs, and flat mesas that resemble pieces of swiss cheese.

In a paper published March 9, 2000, by the journal, Nature,
members of the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC)
team, led by MOC investigator Peter Thomas of Cornell University
(Ithaca, NY), have described some of the newly-discovered differences
in polar geomorphology. The different shapes of the landforms on the
north and south polar caps suggest that these regions have had
different climates and histories for thousands or perhaps even
millions of years. The pictures shown below describe the story
presented in the Nature article.”

  • Nature Magazine
  • Malin Space Science Systems
  • High Resolution Images Show Big Differences Between Mars Polar Caps, NASA JPL, 8 March 2000
  • NASA Releases Eighth-degree topographic shade maps of Mars, 7 March 2000, SpaceRef
  • Mars Exploration: AAAS Ponders: “Where do we go from here?”, 21 February 2000, SpaceRef

    Note: All images are from Malin Space Science Systems
    Click on image to read image caption and access higher resolution images.


    Polar Caps


    South Polar
    “Swiss Cheese”


    “Swiss Cheese”


    North Polar
    “Cottage Cheese”


    North Polar


    North Polar
    Cap Layers


    South Polar
    Cap Pits


    South Polar
    Cap Troughs


    South Polar
    Cap Aprons


    South Polar

  • SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.