Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

Global Surveyor captures spring thaw on Mars
Posted: November 27, 2000

Patchy frost lingers late into martian spring in this Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) wide angle view from November 25, 1999. Spring would give way to summer in only 1 month, on December 25, 1999.

The surfaces underneath the frost have different properties -- some get warmer while others stay cold -- thus causing frost to linger on colder surfaces and sublime away from warmer surfaces, leaving the dazzling, almost psychadelic pattern seen at the center of this image.

Circular features in this view are old craters formed by meteor impact. The brightest patches within most of these circles are fields of sand dunes covered by frost.

The center of this scene is near 78 deg S, 135 deg W; north is toward the upper right.Illumination is from the upper left. The image covers an area 110 km (68 mi) across by 590 km (367 mi) down. This is a color composite of MOC wide angle camera images M09-06029 (red) and M09-06030 (blue).

Planum Australe -- the Plains of the South. Photo: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, CA. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, CA and Denver, CO.