Bright lower echo from Mars south-polar layered deposits
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Bright lower echo from Mars’ south-polar layered deposits

March 21, 2007
The upper image of this composite is a "radargram'"from the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) on board ESA's Mars Express. It shows data from the subsurface of Mars in the water-ice-rich layered deposits that surround the south pole of the planet.

The lower image shows the position of the ground track of the spacecraft (indicated by a white line) on a topographic map of the area based on data from the MOLA laser altimeter on board NASA's Mars Global Surveyor. The images are 1250 kilometers wide. A non-annotated version of the image can be found here. here.

The MARSIS radar echo trace splits into two traces on the left side of the image, at the point where the ground track crosses from the surrounding plains onto elevated layered deposits.

The upper trace is the echo from the surface of the deposits, while the lower trace is interpreted to be the boundary between the lower surface of the deposits and the underlying material.

The strength of the lower echo suggests that the intervening material is nearly pure water ice. Near the image center, the bright lower echo abruptly disappears for unknown reasons. The time delay between the two echoes reaches a maximum of 42 microseconds left of center, corresponding to a thickness of 3.5 kilometers of ice. The total elevation difference shown in the topographic map is about 4 kilometers between the lowest surface (purple) and the highest (red).

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