First topographic maps of the south pole of Mars (2023)


Oblique perspective view of the south pole of MarsSCIENTIFIC CONTACTS:

pm. Schenk
Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, TX 77058
281 486-2157

JM Moore
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035
650 604-5529

Stereo images of Mars taken 20 years ago have provided the first detailed view of the topography of the south polar region of Mars (shown above in a perspective view of a new 3-D animation of the region) and the Mars Polar Lander landing zone.

These three-dimensional views and new topographic maps show that the thickness and volume of ice materials at the south pole approximate those of ice deposits found at the north pole of Mars. Together, the North and South Pole reservoirs represent less than 1/5 of the water thought to have inundated Mars in the ancient past. This new data suggests that most of this water must have disappeared somewhere other than at the two polar ice caps.

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Color mosaic and geological map of the south polar region of Mars

Figure 1a

Color mosaic of the south polar region of Mars. This image is almost 3,000 kilometers wide. The bright region is permanently covered by carbon dioxide ice. Extensive layered deposits surround this polar cap. In early December 1999, the Mars Polar Lander (MPL) will land in the curved box.

Figure 1b

Geological map of the south polar region of Mars (simplified from Tanaka and Scott, 1987). White areas are residual or permanent ice deposits; blue areas are stratified deposits; pink and purple areas are smooth, smooth material; the dark brown arc is the edge of the 850-kilometer-wide Prometheus Impact Basin.

The new elevation maps of the South Pole were created from Viking Orbiter stereo images taken in 1977 and 1978. Drs. Paul Schenk from the Lunar & Planetary Institute (Houston) and Jeffrey Moore from the NASA Ames Research Center (Moffett Field, CA) will present their results in the30th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Houston, TX, am 18. März 1999.

Unused until now, this Viking stereodata was re-examined to determine the thickness and volume of these deposits. They were also re-examined to provide the earliest possible topographical data to help select a safe landing site for theMars Polar Lander (MPL'98). MPL is scheduled to land near the South Pole in December 1999 to search for water and carbon dioxide ice, but MOLA (the altimeter onboard Mars Global Surveyor) will not begin mapping the region until this spring and summer. The Viking data also fills an expected gap in the MOLA data south of the 86th parallel, which includes part of the remaining ice deposits.

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Three-dimensional views of the Martian polar dome and the landing zone of the Martian polar lander

Figure 2

Three-dimensional stereo view of Mars' south polar cap. The glowing material is ice, probably frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice).

Vertical cant factor = 5
Vertical resolution = 80 meters.

Figure 3

Three-dimensional stereo view of part of the MPL landing site. Images taken in the Martian spring. The bright spots are carbon dioxide frost. These frost deposits, while confusing on monoscopic images, provide high-contrast patterns that aid in topographical differentiation in stereoscopic analysis.

Vertical cant factor = 2
Vertical resolution = 160 meters.

Figure 4

Three-dimensional stereo view of the landing site region of the Mars polar lander. These images were taken during the frost-free southern Martian summer.

Vertical cant factor = 4
Vertical resolution = 300 meters.

From these stereoscopic views, Schenk and Moore were able to create topographic relief maps of the south polar region using computer software developed at LPI to extract the topography from the stereoscopic data. These maps have spatial resolutions of 1.5 to 3 kilometers and vertical resolutions of 80 to 160 meters.

The most prominent feature on the new topographic map is a broad convex dome about 500 kilometers in diameter and a maximum height of 3 kilometers above the surrounding plains. Referred to here as the South Pole Dome (SPD), but also known as "The Wart," this dome extends almost 100 kilometers beyond the radiant permafrost. The maximum height of the South Pole Dome is about 250 kilometers from the South Pole.

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The south pole dome is abruptly cut off at one edge by a prominent 1 kilometer high escarpment. This escarpment is flanked by a broad, graben-like depression 500 meters deep and 100 kilometers wide. The embankment and trough are interpreted as evidence that the stratified deposits were originally much larger but were eroded away. The MOLA team has also cited evidence of the North Pole cap receding.

Topographic maps of the south polar region of Mars

Figure 5a

Digital elevation model of the south polar cap of Mars. The lighter areas have higher elevation. The red contours correspond to the geological boundaries; The curved box is the MPL landing zone.

Figure 5b

Color-coded digital elevation model of the south polar cap of Mars. Red is high, blue is low. About 3 kilometers of relief are shown.

Figure 6

Sketch showing the main physiographic regions of the South Pole region. The medium contour is the edge of stratified deposits. The thick lines are the exposed rims of impact craters and basins. The cross in the circle is the south pole of Mars.

Figure 8a

Topographic cross section through the South Pole Dome and layered deposits. Smooth plains on the left, stratified deposits on the right.

Figure 8b

Topographic cross section through the South Pole Dome and layered deposits. In both views, one side of the dome is cut off by a prominent 1 kilometer high embankment.

The dark "spiral" bands that traverse the bright ice reservoir appear in this new data as outward-facing bluffs several hundred to 1,000 meters high. These escarpments form a series of descending terraces. Brilliant surface ice deposits are found on these flat terraced slopes. These escarpments also indicate that the south pole dome and stratified deposits were originally more extensive. In the north polar cap, the MOLA team showed that similar dark bands are deep asymmetric channels.

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Figure 8c

Topographic cross section through an outward escarpment within the South Pole Dome (SPD) of Mars and layered deposits. This embankment is about 1 kilometer high. SPD coat of arms on the right.

The South Pole Dome forms only part of the southern layered deposits. Beyond the dome, stratified deposits form a vast dissected plateau 1,000 by 1,500 kilometers wide and 1 to 2 kilometers high. This plateau would cover an area the size of Oregon. This mega-plateau is gently to gently undulating except for a series of outward escarpments near the outer edges and several shallow tongue-shaped depressions or depressions. These escarpments and depressions are several hundred meters high and can extend up to 500 kilometers.

Figure 9

Topographic cross-section along the northern edge of the South Pole stratified deposits. In this region, stratified deposits form a 300-kilometer-wide plateau that rises 2 kilometers above the surrounding plains. This plateau was proposed as a landing site for the Mars Polar Lander.

Figure 10

Three views of a 300 km wide plateau in the stratified deposits of SP. (Left) mid-spring view. Seasonal frost deposits are generally seen in the topographical lowlands. (Medium) View obtained in midsummer. The dark deposits are probably sand or dust. sun from below. (Right) Topographic DTM map of part of this region. Bright values ​​are high. The plateau is shown to be approximately 2 kilometers high.

The depressions and escarpments divide the megaplateau of layered deposits into a series of smaller plateaus, typically 100 to 300 kilometers wide. One of the larger mesas (see above) was suggested as a landing site for MPL. Our maps indicate that the region is relatively safe (on a kilometer scale) for landing.

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Figure 11

Topographic cross section through closed depressions within the stratified deposits at the South Pole. These depressions are up to 1 kilometer deep and may have been formed by wind erosion.

From these topographic maps, Schenk and Moore estimate the volume of material in the South Pole Dome to be 300,000 cubic kilometers. The volume of all southern stratified deposits is about 1.5 million cubic km, roughly comparable to what the MOLA team found in the northern stratified deposits.

Huge floods once washed away the surface of now dry Mars. If the southern layered deposits are mostly icy, then the estimated total volume of ice deposits at the north and south poles of Mars has doubled to almost 3 million cubic kilometers, about the volume of the Greenland ice sheet. . That amount of frozen water would still be less than 1/5th the estimated minimum volume of the ancient northern ocean, which is thought to have inundated much of Mars. Other hiding places for this lost water would have to be found, either underground or permanently lost in space.

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What was the first map of Mars? ›

In September 1877, (a perihelic opposition of Mars occurred on September 5), Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli published the first detailed map of Mars. These maps notably contained features he called canali ("channels"), that were later shown to be an optical illusion.

When was the first map of Mars created? ›

In 1840 the German astronomers Wilhelm Beer and Johann von Mädler produced the first map of Mars, shown here in Mädler's "Popular Astronomy" (1861).

How has the topography of Mars been mapped? ›

These maps are based on data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA; Smith and others, 2001), an instrument on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft (Albee and others, 2001).

Who created the first map of Mars? ›

Giovanni Cassini, William Herschel, Robert Hooke, and Christiaan Huygens all tried their hand at drawing the planet's basic features in the 17th and 18th centuries. But German astronomers Johann Mädler and Wilhelm Beer made the first true map of Mars.

What is the oldest surface on Mars? ›

Based on the presence of the largest impact structures, the highest crater densities and the impact history of the inner Solar System, the southern highlands of Mars represent the oldest crust. They are believed to have formed prior to 3.8 billion years ago.

Has Mars been mapped? ›

Nearly 90% of Mars' surface has been mapped by the high-resolution stereo camera on ESA's Mars Express, which celebrates ten years since launch this June.

When did humans first land on Mars? ›

NASA is under presidential orders to land humans on Mars by 2033 although later years like 2035 or even late 2030s seem as a more realistic approach. NASA-funded engineers are studying a way to build potential human habitats there by producing bricks from pressurized Martian soil.

Who was the first human to land on Mars? ›

In reality, the probe carried two North Korean cosmonauts, Lee Jung-Gil and Park Chol. While the latter was killed during tha landing, Lee became the real first man setting foot on Mars on February 8, 1995.

Who was the first person to see Mars? ›

Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642) observes Mars with a primitive telescope, becoming the first person to use it for astronomical purposes.

How much of Mars has been mapped out? ›

Over 80 percent of that ocean floor remains undiscovered, uncharted, and unmapped. Meaning, majority of our planet is unexplored. As for Mars, 100 percent of the surface has been mapped.

How much of Mars surface has been mapped? ›

Covering 86 percent of the Red Planet's surface, the map reveals the distribution of dozens of key minerals. By looking at mineral distribution, scientists can better understand Mars' watery past and can prioritize which regions need to be studied in more depth.

What is the range of topography on Mars? ›

"The full range of topography on Mars is about 19 miles (30 kilometers), one and a half times the range of elevations found on Earth," noted Dr.

Who was the first to look at Mars through a telescope? ›

Hundreds of years ago… Many years later astronomers began to observe Mars with telescopes, with Galileo Galilei being the first person to do so in 1610. By the 19th century telescopes were powerful enough to make out details of the surface of Mars, and this led to some interesting “discoveries”.

Was there water on Mars before? ›

The red planet once had a global ocean, rivers, and lakes. Then, the solar wind — charged particles from the Sun — stripped away the Martian atmosphere. As the planet's protective shield faded, all liquid water on the surface evaporated into space, merged with minerals, or fled underground to become water ice.

What was Mars before drying up? ›

Mars' dramatic shift from a warm and wet planet to a cold and dry one may have been chiefly driven by greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide (CO2), a new study suggested. Missions to the Red Planet have revealed the presence of riverbanks and deltas, evidence that it was once home to rivers and lakes.

What was Mars called before? ›

They called Mars Har Decher - the Red One. Greeks called the planet Ares after their god of war, while the Romans called it Mars.

Was Mars a failed Earth? ›

In consequence, Mars became a failed Earth where only bacteria, fungi, and perhaps those living deep beneath the soil or within caves and crevices, are able to survive.

Has anything landed on Mars before? ›

Soviet Union's Mars 3, which landed in 1971, was the first successful Mars landing. As of May 2021, the Soviet Union, United States, and China have conducted Mars landings successfully.

What is the closest Mars has ever been to Earth? ›

The minimum distance from Earth to Mars is about 33.9 million miles (54.6 million kilometers). However, that doesn't happen very often.

Did Mars ever had water? ›

Scientists have been aware that Mars has thick water ice caps at both poles just like Earth.

Has anyone stepped foot on Mars? ›

Mars is a far-away dream. That is not to say that humans haven't reached the planet: we have, albeit, by proxy, as our rovers have been on the red soil. However, no man has ever stepped foot on Mars's surface.

Is there any Oxygen on Mars? ›

What 5 countries reach Mars? ›

The only other country to land a spacecraft on Mars was the Soviet Union in 1971 and 1973. The United States, the Soviet Union, the European Space Agency and India have successfully sent spacecraft to enter Mars' orbit.

Did Mars have life? ›

The possibility of life on Mars is a subject of interest in astrobiology due to the planet's proximity and similarities to Earth. To date, no proof of past or present life has been found on Mars.

Which country goes to Moon first? ›

Of the Moon landings, Luna 2 of the Soviet Union was the first spacecraft to reach its surface successfully, intentionally impacting the Moon on 13 September 1959. In 1966, Luna 9 became the first spacecraft to achieve a controlled soft landing, while Luna 10 became the first mission to enter orbit.

Is Mars hot or cold? ›

Mariner 4, which flew by Mars on July 14, 1965, found that Mars has an atmospheric pressure of only 1 to 2 percent of the Earth's. Temperatures on Mars average about -81 degrees F. However, temperatures range from around -220 degrees F. in the wintertime at the poles, to +70 degrees F.

What was found on Mars? ›

The rover investigated the crater floor and found evidence of igneous, or volcanic, rock. During its second campaign to study the delta over the past five months, Perseverance has found rich sedimentary rock layers that add more to the story of Mars' ancient climate and environment.

Who named Mars? ›

Mars was named by the ancient Romans for their god of war because its reddish color was reminiscent of blood.

When did Mars lose its oceans? ›

Mars once ran red with rivers. The telltale tracks of past rivers, streams and lakes are visible today all over the planet. But about three billion years ago, they all dried up—and no one knows why.

How fast did Mars lose its atmosphere? ›

The solar wind stripped away most of the Martian atmosphere in only a few hundred million years after the planet lost its magnetic field. This process was quick because the Sun rotated much faster in its youth, which made the solar wind more energetic.

How many times did NASA failed to land on Mars? ›

Mars has a reputation as a difficult space exploration target; just 25 of 55 missions through 2019, or 45.5%, have been fully successful, with a further three partially successful and partially failures. However, of the sixteen missions since 2001, twelve have been successful and eight of these are still operational.

Has Mars lost its magnetic field? ›

Researchers believe that Mars once had a global magnetic field, like Earth's, but the iron-core dynamo that generated it shut down billions of years ago leaving behind only patches of magnetism due to magnetised minerals in the Martian crust.

Is there any sound in space? ›

On Earth, sound travels to your ears by vibrating air molecules. In deep space, the large empty areas between stars and planets, there are no molecules to vibrate. There is no sound there.

How deep have we drilled on Mars? ›

The deepest any drill has dug on the Red Planet to date is 7 cm. The Rosalind Franklin rover is designed to drill deep enough, up to two metres, to get access to well-preserved organic material from four billion years ago, when conditions on the surface of Mars were more like those on infant Earth.

What are the key topographical features of Mars? ›

Its surface is rocky, with canyons, volcanoes, dry lake beds and craters all over it. Red dust covers most of its surface. Mars has clouds and wind just like Earth. Sometimes the wind blows the red dust into a dust storm.

What are 5 landforms on Mars? ›

Dunefields, craters, volcanoes, and river channels are the earliest recognized types of Martian landforms, and the aeolian landform process is currently the most one on Mars (Bishop, 2018).

Where is the flattest place on Mars? ›

26, 2018 near Mars' equator on the western side of a flat, smooth plain called Elysium Planitia.

What was the first thing Curiosity found on Mars? ›

1. Curiosity Finds Evidence of Persistent Liquid Water in the Past. Just after landing, Curiosity found smooth, rounded pebbles that likely rolled downstream for at least a few miles in a river that was ankle- to hip-deep.

What was the first picture taken on Mars? ›

This panoramic image of sand dunes and large rocks is the first photograph taken of Mars by Voyager 1's Camera 1 on July 23, 1976. (Image credit: NASA.)

What was the first successful visit to Mars? ›

Mariner 9 was launched successfully on May 30, 1971, and became the first artificial satellite of Mars when it arrived and went into orbit. NASA's Viking Project found a place in history when it became the first mission to land a spacecraft safely on the surface of another planet.

What is the first city on Mars? ›

Designed by ABIBOO studio, the first region to be inhabited could be able to house one million humans. Nüwa is set to be the capital of five cities, each projected to accommodate between 200,000 and 250,000 individuals, and has a very particular design that could only be achieved on the surface of the red planet.

What was the first country to go to Mars? ›

December 2, 1971 – The USSR's Mars 3 lander makes the first successful landing on the planet's surface.

Is there a city in the US named Mars? ›

Mars is a borough in Butler County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 1,699 at the 2010 census.

Is there a city being built on Mars? ›

Architects and scientists have collaborated on a new Mars city concept. Up to 250,000 residents will live inside a cliff, connected by elevators. The Mars city relies on a stream of supplies from Earth before becoming fully sustainable.

Could a city be built on Mars? ›

Musk plans to build a self-sustaining city on Mars. Ready to live on Mars? It may not happen for a while, as Elon Musk recently revealed that astronauts on the red planet could finally become reality by 2029. The SpaceX CEO has a long-standing vision of establishing a city on the Red Planet.

Did the North Koreans land on Mars first for all mankind? ›

However, the North Koreans secretly sent two cosmonauts on a one way trip to the red planet in the capsule 483PRK1, though only Lee Jung-Gil survived the trip, making him the first man on Mars. The mission was not disclosed to the public due to the damaged communications array, making the mission seemingly a failure.

Who named Mars first? ›

Namesake. Mars was named by the ancient Romans for their god of war because its reddish color was reminiscent of blood.


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