This picture is one of the first images obtained by MOC following the May 1998 period of solar conjunction. During solar conjunction, MOC and the other instruments on Mars Global Surveyor were off while Mars was behind the Sun, relative to Earth. The spacecraft could not communicate with Earth during this time. After solar conjunction, Mars Global Surveyor entered the SPO-2 observing phase-- the second Science Phasing Orbit period.
Orbit 338 was the first orbit on which MOC obtained pictures following solar conjunction. This orbit executed on June 1, 1998. The picture above shows a 12.3 meters (40 feet) per pixel view of the floor of an ancient, eroded, 47 kilometer (29 miles) wide impact crater.
The most striking feature in this image is the small crater with dark ejecta on the far right side. This crater, formed by a meteor impact, is only about 38 meters (125 feet) across. The blast that formed the crater sent out ejecta in a radial pattern around the impact site. The ejecta pattern may be dark because subsurface dark material was thrown out by the impact or because the disturbed ground reflects less light. By martian standards, this crater is quite young--so young that fine, bright dust that has not yet covered it up. While interpreted to be geologically young, the crater is definitely more than 18 years old, because it is visible as a small, dark spot in the Viking context image taken in 1980. Also visible in this image are some small wind-blown dunes and many small mesas and buttes that probably formed by erosion.
The MOC image 33806 subframe is located at 9.94°N, 311.23°W, in the eastern Arabia Terra region of Mars. The picture was taken at 8:15 a.m. PDT on June 1, 1998.
Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, CA. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, CA and Denver, CO.