Near the Martian south pole

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Near the Martian south pole

Cool image time! The image above, reduced and cropped to show here, shows an area at 87 degrees south latitude, not far from the south pole of Mars and in the region at the edge of its icecap of dry ice.

It is late summer in the Southern hemisphere, so the Sun is low in the sky and subtle topography is accentuated in orbital images.

We see many shallow pits in the bright residual cap of carbon dioxide ice (also called “Swiss cheese terrain”). There is also a deeper, circular formation that penetrates through the ice and dust. This might be an impact crater or it could be a collapse pit.

Because of the low Sun angle the bottom of the deep pit is poorly lit, making it hard to determine the pit’s nature. What can be seen at its bottom however are some patches of carbon dioxide ice, melting in the same manner as the dry ice in the surrounding terrain. Also, the dust pattern surrounding the pit indicates the prevailing winds at this location, consistently blowing to the northeast.

I am certain there will be additional photos taken of this pit, when the Sun is higher in the sky and its floor is thus better illuminated.



  • DougSpace

    I don’t see a rim on the crater suggesting that it is an impact crater.

  • DougSpace: Granted, no impact rim is visible, but this is the region of the south pole, where the carbon dioxide icecap evaporates and refreezes seasonally, causing significant surface changes with each cycle. While a pit seems a good first guess, I would be careful about drawing any strong conclusions yet.

  • BSJ

    Dry ice snow. Yeah, really sounds like a nice place to live.

    Makes me wonder why Antarctica isn’t attracting droves of settlers, with all its relatively tropical temperatures and you know, stuff like air.

  • wayne


    “…stuff like air.”

    Excellent wordsmith-ery!

  • Dick Eagleson


    If Antarctica was suddenly thrown open to settlement – Oklahoma Land Rush-style – you would certainly see people and resource companies taking quick advantage. Antarctica isn’t settled because the Big Dogs – the very biggest being the U.S. – have decided to keep it a science-only international park. There is a small amount of adventure tourism by both ship and plane. Beyond that, Antarctica is a capitalism-free zone. Elon Musk is likely to have his million-population city on Mars before anyone is allowed to settle in Antarctica.

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