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This Is a Collapsed Pit on Mars, Not a Pimple

19 Apr 2021, 18:23 UTC
This Is a Collapsed Pit on Mars, Not a Pimple
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Mars has been in the news a lot lately, and for good reason. With the historic landing of the Perseverance Rover earlier in the year, and the successful flight of Ingenuity, the first-ever aircraft to fly in another atmosphere, earlier this morning (April 19, 2021), there’s no shortage of exciting stories of technical brilliance from the human-built wonders exploring the red planet. High above the plucky helicopter, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) surveys the Martian landscape on a grand scale. A brain-bending image released by High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), a powerful camera aboard MRO, shows a sunken pit in the planet’s polar region. From the high-altitude perspective of the orbiter, it’s easy for the mind to warp the concave depression into a convex, acne-esque Martian polar zit!

The HiRISE team knows the latitude, longitude, and altitude of MRO for all of their imagery. They see the sun’s angle for the target area, in this case, a low 8° above the horizon. This means that they can use the location of the shadows in the image to determine that the circular pattern in the layered deposits of minerals and ices (likely both water ice AND frozen carbon dioxide) is ...

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