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Radar View of Layering near Mars' North Pole, Orbit 1512
Radar View of Layering near Mars' North Pole

A radargram from the Shallow Subsurface Radar instrument (SHARAD) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveals detailed structure in the polar layered deposits of Mars' north pole. The layering is a manifestation of the recent climate history of Mars as recorded in the deposition and removal of ice and dust.

The horizontal scale of the radargram is distance along the orbiter's ground track, which is about 180 kilometers (110 miles). The vertical scale is time delay of radar signals reflected back to the spacecraft from the surface and subsurface. The color scale varies from black for weak reflections to yellow for strong reflections.

Subsurface layering evident in the radargram is divided into a finely structured upper unit about 600 meters (2,000 feet) thick, and a less well defined set of layers in a lower unit. The base of the entire stack of layers is marked by a very diffuse, bright reflection whose maximum depth is about 2,000 meters (6,600 feet).

The sounding radar collected the data presented here during orbit 1512 of the mission, on Nov. 22, 2006.

The Shallow Subsurface Radar was provided by the Italian Space Agency (ASI). Its operations are led by the University of Rome and its data are analyzed by a joint U.S.-Italian science team. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/University of Rome/Washington University in St. Louis/MSSS

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