Mars’ northern polar regions
Science & Exploration

Mars’ northern polar regions in transition

05/08/2011 3666 views 4 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Space Science

A newly released image from ESA’s Mars Express shows the north pole of Mars during the red planet’s summer solstice. All the carbon dioxide ice has gone, leaving just a bright cap of water ice.

This image was captured by the orbiter’s High-Resolution Stereo Camera on 17 May 2010 and shows part of the northern polar region of Mars during the summer solstice. The solstice is the longest day and the beginning of the summer for the planet’s northern hemisphere.

The ice shield is covered by frozen water and carbon dioxide ice in winter and spring but by this point in the martian year all of the carbon dioxide ice has warmed and evaporated into the planet’s atmosphere.

Mars’ northern polar regions in context
Mars’ northern polar regions in context

Only water ice is left behind, which shows up as bright white areas in this picture. From these layers, large bursts of water vapour are occasionally released into the atmosphere.

The polar ice follows the seasons. In winter, part of the atmosphere recondenses as frost and snow on the northern cap. These seasonal deposits can extend as far south as 45°N latitude and be up to a metre thick.

Another phenomenon occurs on the curved scarps of the northern polar cap, such as the Rupes Tenuis slope (on the left of this image). During spring, the seasonal carbon dioxide layer is covered by water frost. At certain times, winds remove the the millimetre-thick top layer of frozen water, revealing the carbon dioxide ice below.

Northern features
Northern features

These processes bear witness to a dynamic water cycle on Mars and may lead to the varying accumulation of water ice over the polar cap.

Other noticeable features in this image include the Chasma Boreale canyon, coloured deposits and a large dune field.

Chasma Boreale is about 2 km deep, 580 km long and about 100 km wide. Its walls allow a perfect view into the strata within the deposits. There are impact craters on the canyon floor, some heavily covered by sand and some partly exhumed.

Dark and light-toned deposits can be seen as a fine and regular covering. The darker sediments have been dropped by the winds during spring dust storms. The patterns are created when the deposits change in quantity according to the seasons.

Northern high resolution
Northern high resolution

The polar cap is surrounded by a large dune field, parts of which extend 600 km to the south.

Mars Express will soon be using its radar to probe the northern polar cap in three dimensions. Since the radar antenna was deployed in mid-2005, the team have been waiting for the right conditions to observe the region.

The radar works best at night when the electrical interference from the planet’s atmosphere is at a minimum. An excellent opportunity to observe the cap’s shape, depth and composition occurs in August and September 2011.

Stay tuned for new results!

Northern 3D
Northern 3D

Mars Express vil snart begynne å bruke radaren ombord for å undersøke polkappen i tre dimensjoner. Siden radarantennen ble foldet ut i 2005 har forskerne som jobber med Mars Express ventet på at forholdene skal bli riktige for å undersøke polkappen med radar.

Radaren fungerer best på natten når de elektriske forstyrrelsene i atmosfæren er minst. I august og september 2011 vil det bli gode sjanser til å undersøke polkappens form, dybde og sammensetning.

Følg med for flere nyheter fra Mars!

Se menyen til høyre for å vite mer om Mars og Mars Express.

Related Links

Holden and Eberswalde craters
Science & Exploration

Rare martian lake delta spotted by Mars Express

02/09/2011 4309 views 17 likes
Read
Mars’ northern polar regions
Science & Exploration

Mars’ northern polar regions in transition

05/08/2011 3666 views 4 likes
Read
Science & Exploration

Phobos slips past Jupiter

17/06/2011 4524 views 13 likes
Read
Springtime at Mars’ south pole
Science & Exploration

Springtime at Mars’ south pole

07/06/2011 3309 views 5 likes
Read
Deep fractures on Mars
Science & Exploration

Mars Express sees deep fractures on Mars

06/05/2011 2642 views 2 likes
Read
Neighbouring volcanoes on Mars
Science & Exploration

Neighbouring volcanoes on Mars

01/04/2011 2484 views 3 likes
Read
Elongated crater on Mars
Science & Exploration

The scars of impacts on Mars

04/03/2011 3342 views 2 likes
Read
Arabia Terra on Mars
Science & Exploration

Mars Express puts craters on a pedestal

04/02/2011 2399 views 1 likes
Read
Stereo-1 channel image of Phobos
Science & Exploration

Mars Express close flybys of martian moon Phobos

21/01/2011 6918 views 7 likes
Read
Schiaparelli on Mars
Science & Exploration

Wind and water have shaped Schiaparelli on Mars

10/12/2010 4748 views 9 likes
Read
Phoenicis Lacus on Mars
Science & Exploration

Light and dark in the Phoenix Lake

12/11/2010 1928 views 3 likes
Read
Melas Chasma on Mars
Science & Exploration

Mars: how low can you go?

08/10/2010 2351 views 4 likes
Read
Orcus Patera on Mars
Science & Exploration

Mars’s mysterious elongated crater

27/08/2010 6030 views 16 likes
Read
Magellan Crater on Mars
Science & Exploration

Rocky mounds and a plateau on Mars

28/06/2010 2115 views 4 likes
Read
Science & Exploration

Wet era on early Mars was global

25/06/2010 2070 views 3 likes
Read
Volcanic ash deposits in Meridiani Planum
Science & Exploration

Volcanic ash in Meridiani Planum

12/05/2010 2840 views 7 likes
Read
Part of the Sirenum Fossae region in the Southern Highlands of Mars.
Science & Exploration

Craters young and old in Sirenum Fossae

03/02/2010 2109 views 2 likes
Read
Close to Ma'adim Vallis
Science & Exploration

Craters, lava flows and tectonic features near Ma'adim Vall…

24/07/2009 2330 views 2 likes
Read
Impacts and floods
Science & Exploration

Craters and channels in Hephaestus Fossae

05/06/2009 3538 views 6 likes
Read
Ariadnes Colles, nadir view
Science & Exploration

Chaotic terrain in Ariadnes Colles

24/04/2009 1704 views 6 likes
Read
Rupes Tenuis
Science & Exploration

Ice-covered martian North Pole

06/03/2009 2096 views 2 likes
Read
Euminedes Dorsum
Science & Exploration

The Euminedes Dorsum mountains on Mars

28/11/2008 1690 views 3 likes
Read
Mangala Fossae
Science & Exploration

Lava deposits in Mangala Fossae

26/09/2008 1950 views 5 likes
Read

Related Links