This image shows the southern polar ice cap on Mars. White areas are ice that exists throughout the year. The ice includes a large deposit of water ice topped by a thinner layer of dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide). The southern ice cap is about 420 km (260 miles) across from left to right in this image. This image, captured by the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter in April 2000, shows the South Pole during the Martian summer season. In the winter, the entire area shown in this image would be covered with dry ice.
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Image courtesy of NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems.
The South Pole of Mars
The Martian South Pole was first imaged by Mariner 7. The south polar region is part of the highlands of Mars, consisting of old, cratered terrain, and other interesting geologic features. The Mariner image shows the polar caps and a mosaic of some of these features, including: dunefields, the polar ice cap, layered terrain, places where water apparently once flowed, and the proposed landing site for the Mars '98 mission.
Martian global dust storms, an important feature of the Martian atmosphere, always seem to start in the south polar region. The region is important for understanding the overall climate and weather patterns of Mars and which is why the Mars '98 mission was supposed to explore this region.
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