Small Crater on Planum Boreum
Small Crater on Planum Boreum
PSP_009942_2645  Science Theme: Polar Geology
Impact craters on the surface of Planum Boreum, popularly known as the north polar cap, are rare. This dearth of craters has lead scientists to suggest that these deposits may be geologically young (a few million years old), not having had much time to accumulate impact craters throughout their lifetime.

It is also possible that impacts into ice do not retain their shape indefinitely, but instead that the ice relaxes (similar to glass in an old window), and the crater begins to disappear. This subimage shows an example of a rare, small crater ( approximately 115 meters, or 125 yards, in diameter). Scientists can count these shallow craters to attain an estimate of the age of the upper few meters of the Planum Boreum surface.

The color in the enhanced-color example comes from the presence of dust and of ice of differing grain sizes. The blueish ice has a larger grain size than the ice that has collected in the crater. The reddish material is dust. The smooth area stretching to the upper right, away from the crater may be due to winds being channeled around the crater or to fine-grained ice and frost blowing out of the crater.

Written by: Kate Fishbaugh  (15 October 2008)
Acquisition date
09 September 2008

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
317.7 km (197.5 miles)

Original image scale range
63.6 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~191 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
50 cm/pixel

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
65°, with the Sun about 25° above the horizon

Solar longitude
124.6°, Northern Summer

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  118°
Sub-solar azimuth:  324.1°
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Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
For scale, use JPEG/JP2 black & white map-projected images

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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.