Astronomy Picture of the Day
February 23, 2013

Possible Frozen Paleo-Lake in the South Polar Regions of Mars (Part I)
Possible Frozen Paleo-Lake in the South Polar Regions of Mars (Part I)

Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Drr Gianluigi Barca and Paolo C. Fienga/Lunar Explorer Italia/IPF

This Surface Feature, now pictured by the NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, but already known to Planetary Researchers (since it had already been photographed by the NASA - Mars Global Surveyor Orbiter a few years ago - see the MGS-MOC Image identified by the serial n. M09-01354), it is certainly very intriguing and highly suggestive. The NASA People, however, called this Surface Feature (that, in our humble opinion, as IPF, looks like a frozen Lake and it is also well characterized by the presence, on its Eastern Side, of a long line of almost perfectly lined-up and unusually-looking - "oblong" - Impact Craters) "Smooth South Polar Region".

This Surface Feature (as you will better see in the next few days, when we shall show you its smallest details) is (or "looks", if you prefer) very peculiar, and that is a fact that can hardly be disputed. Said that, we, as IPF, expected that NASA told us something more about this Smooth South Polar Region. We honestly thought that NASA would (and should) have showed us soon enough this intriguing Surface Feature from other visual angles, maybe (if possible) from a lower altitude, certainly during other seasons/periods of the Martian Year and, last but not least, under different Illumination Geometries, but...Nothing happened. Not a word of explanation was ever said or written (as far as we know) and not an "official" comment whatsoever was ever released.

Now, in the light of the aformentioned considerations, we decided to draw to your attention - through our Daily APOD - this "Smooth South Polar Region" and ask you a couple of simple questions: what do you really think or believe that this Surface Feature could be representing? Do you think that it could actually be the frozen remnant of an ancient (and once much bigger) Martian Lake or it is just a flat area surrounded by the typical Polar Terrain? If you wish to express your opinion, please write us at . The most interesting and well substantiated ideas and theories that we hope to receive, shall be published here (giving to the Writer/s all the due credits), as additional comments to other (VERY detailed) orbital views of this very same Smooth South Polar Region. Thanks, as usual, for you interest and support!

Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF

Mars Local Time: 14:56 (Early Afternoon)
Coord. (centered): 78,638° South Lat. and 68,111° East Long.
Spacecraft altitude: 248,0 Km (such as about 154,008 miles)
Original image scale range: 49,6 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~ 1 mt and 49 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale: 50 cm/pixel
Emission Angle: 4,5°
Sun-Martian Surface-MRO Spacecraft (or Phase) Angle: 67,9°
Solar Incidence Angle: 65° (meaning that the Sun was about 25° above the Local Horizon at the time the picture was taken)
Solar Longitude: 317,2° (Northern Winter - Southern Summer)
Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Additional process. and coloring: Lunar Explorer Italia

This picture (which is a cropped and NON-Map Projected NASA - Original Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter CTX b/w frame, identified by the serial n. ESP_023024_1010) has been additionally processed and then colorized in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and then looked down, towards the Surface of Mars), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team.

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