Icy Craters on Mars
Icy Craters on Mars
ESP_016954_2245  Science Theme: Impact Processes
Newly formed impact craters have been discovered on Mars over the past several years. When craters form over dusty regions the impact blast blows the bright dust off the terrain over a wide area, leaving a dark spot.

These large dark spots are visible to the Context Camera (CTX) and the Context Camera team reports their discovery to the HiRISE team. HiRISE has sufficient resolution to see not only the dark blast zone, but also the much smaller crater that formed it. One of these craters, with its dark blast zone, is visible in the first subimage. The blast zone is almost 800 meters (half a mile) across. The crater itself is just over 20 meters (66 feet) across and is shown in the second subimage.

This crater is one of a special group that have excavated down to buried ice. This ice gets thrown out of the crater onto the surrounding terrain. Although buried ice is common over about half the Martian surface, we can only easily discover craters in dusty regions. The overlap between areas that both have buried ice and surface dust is unfortunately small. So even though we have discovered over 100 new impact craters we have only discovered seven new craters that expose buried ice.

When craters excavate this buried ice it tells us something about the extent and depth of buried ice on Mars (controlled by climate); this information is used by planetary scientists to figure out what the recent climate of Mars was like. It has also been a surprise that this ice is so clean. Scientists expected this buried ice to be a mixture of ice and dirt; instead this ice seems to have formed in pure lenses. Yet another surprise that Mars had in store for us!

Written by: Shane Byrne  (21 April 2010)
Acquisition date
09 March 2010

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
301.3 km (187.3 miles)

Original image scale range
30.4 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~91 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
42°, with the Sun about 48° above the horizon

Solar longitude
61.7°, Northern Spring

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  348.9°
Black and white
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IRB color
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Merged IRB
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Merged RGB
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map-projected   (907MB)

IRB color
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Black and white
map-projected  (470MB)
non-map           (380MB)

IRB color
map projected  (157MB)
non-map           (357MB)

Merged IRB
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Merged RGB
map-projected  (291MB)

RGB color
non map           (306MB)
Map-projected, reduced-resolution
Full resolution JP2 download
Anaglyph details page

B&W label
Color label
Merged IRB label
Merged RGB label
EDR products

IRB: infrared-red-blue
RGB: red-green-blue
About color products (PDF)

Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
For scale, use JPEG/JP2 black & white map-projected images

All of the images produced by HiRISE and accessible on this site are within the public domain: there are no restrictions on their usage by anyone in the public, including news or science organizations. We do ask for a credit line where possible:

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.