March 1999--it is summer in the martian northern hemisphere, yet patches of frost or snow persist in some areas of the northern plains. Winter ended eight months earlier, in July 1998. Recently, the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) passed over a relatively small impact crater located at latitude 68°N (on the Vastitas Borealis plain, north of Utopia Planitia) and took the picture seen at the left, above. The curved crater rims are visible in the upper and lower quarters of the image, and the crater floor is visible at the center right.
The picture on the right is a magnified view of the crater rim area outlined by a white box in the image on the left. The bright patches are snow or frost left over from the martian winter. These snowfields are so small that a human could walk across one of them in a matter of minutes--or perhaps sled down the small, sloping patch that is seen in a shadowed area near the lower left.
In winter, the entire scene shown here would be covered by frost. The long strip at the left covers an area 3 km (1.9 mi) wide by 26 km (16 mi) long. The expanded view on the right covers an area 2.9 km (1.8 mi) by 5.3 km (3.3 mi). Illumination is from the upper right.
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.