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This is a picture of the ice cap at the South Pole on Mars. This picture was shot from Mars orbit in 2000 by a spacecraft called Mars Global Surveyor. The white regions are ice. Most of the ice is water ice, but there is also a thinner layer of dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) on top of the water ice. The ice cap is about 420 km (260 miles) across. It was summer in the southern part of Mars when this picture was taken. In the winter, the area shown in this picture is completely covered by dry ice.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems.

The South Pole of Mars

The Mariner 7 spacecraft took the first pictures of the South Pole of Mars. The south polar region is part of the highlands of Mars. The southern highlands of Mars are mostly old, cratered terrain and other interesting geologic features. Some of the features of the south pole are: dunefields, the polar ice cap, layered terrain, places where water may have flowed in the past, and the intended 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.


Last modified July 3, 2008 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF