Complex Geology in the South Polar Layered Deposits
Complex Geology in the South Polar Layered Deposits
PSP_004917_1080  Science Theme: Polar Geology


This section of the HiRISE image shows a scarp exposing the south polar layered deposits, with illumination from the lower right (scarp slopes toward bottom). The polar layered deposits probably contain a record of relatively recent climate changes on Mars, similar to ice ages on Earth.

The deposits appear to be composed mostly of water ice, with variations in dust content controlling the erosion of the layers. This image shows that the history of the south polar layered deposits has not been simple accumulation of horizontal layers.

Above and right of center, the layers appear wavy and in places, layers are cut off by other layers (2048 x 1633; 3.2MB). Such structures may be formed by flow or faulting, but in this case they are more likely to be due to erosion of the lower part of the layered deposits before the upper part was laid down over it. For example, deposition may have halted long enough for channels to be eroded into the layered deposits. When deposition resumes, new layers deposited in the channels could form the structures visible here. However, without more precise topographic information than is currently available, other hypotheses cannot be excluded.

Written by: Ken Herkenhoff  (19 September 2007)
Acquisition date
14 August 2007

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
249.0 km (154.8 miles)

Original image scale range
49.9 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~150 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
50 cm/pixel

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
55°, with the Sun about 35° above the horizon

Solar longitude
295.4°, Northern Winter

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North azimuth:  100°
Sub-solar azimuth:  47.1°
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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/JPL/University of Arizona

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.