Dark Craters
Dark Craters
ESP_080463_1950  Science Theme: Landscape Evolution
This HiRISE image was taken to sample terrain north of Elysium Planitia and Athabasca Valles. Because HiRISE can only image a small fraction of Mars, most images are targeted on specially selected features of interest. However, we also sample other locations, both to understand the normal terrain and look for things that might not have been obvious enough in other data for anyone to mark out a target.

This image caught something interesting. Most of the surface is smooth regolith peppered with small craters. However, some of the craters are notably dark compared with everything else in the image.

Zooming in to full resolution shows the reason: the dark craters have small ripples and are dark blue in enhanced color, characteristics usually associated with active sand kicking off its dust cover. Why the sand is moving in these particular craters but not others is not certain but could relate to induration (hardening) of the sand, or the age or topography of the craters.

Written by: HiRISE Team  (24 January 2024)
Acquisition date
26 September 2023

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
279.5 km (173.7 miles)

Original image scale range
61.7 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~185 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
50 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
50°, with the Sun about 40° above the horizon

Solar longitude
124.1°, Northern Summer

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  96°
Sub-solar azimuth:  24.0°
Black and white
map projected  non-map

IRB color
map projected  non-map

Merged IRB
map projected

Merged RGB
map projected

RGB color
non-map projected

Black and white
map-projected   (116MB)

IRB color
map-projected   (38MB)

Black and white
map-projected  (61MB)
non-map           (71MB)

IRB color
map projected  (13MB)
non-map           (29MB)

Merged IRB
map projected  (125MB)

Merged RGB
map-projected  (120MB)

RGB color
non map           (28MB)
10K (TIFF)

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.