Mars orbiter sees partially-exhumed crater
Posted: August 18, 2002

Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) images have shown time and again that the geology and history of Mars is complex. This picture shows a circular feature in northern Terra Meridiani at 2.3 deg N, 356.6 deg W. It is a mosaic of 3 MOC narrow angle images acquired in August 1999, November 2000, and June 2002. The black area is a gap in coverage resulting from data lost after transmission from Mars to Earth.

The circular feature was once an impact crater. The crater was 2.6 km (1.6 mi) across, about 2.6 times larger than the famous Meteor Crater in northern Arizona. Terra Meridiani, like northern Arizona, is a region of vast exposures of layered sedimentary rock. Like the crater in Arizona, this one was formed by a meteor that impacted a layered rock substrate. Later, this crater was filled and completely buried under more than 100 m (more than 327 ft) of additional layered sediment. The sediment hardened to become rock. Later still, the rock was eroded away -- by processes unknown (perhaps wind) -- to re-expose the buried crater. The crater today remains mostly filled with sediment, its present rim standing only about 40 m (130 ft) above its surroundings.

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.

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