Planet MarsMars Art Gallery

Defrosting Martian Crater

Defrosting Martian Crater

Image Title: Defrosting Martian Crater
Release Date: August 22, 2005
Source: Mars Global Surveyor


Looking at the picture above, you might think that this image belongs in the Abstract Gallery. It doesn't. The image is an accurate representation of the defrosting of sand dunes inside a Martian crater. That the image is so unusual only shows how strange and beautiful nature can be. I was so taken by this image that I used it as the point of inspiration for my Martian Stained Glass piece.

The diameter of the crater seen in the image is approximately 2.5 kilometers. The numerous small dark circles are the areas from which the overlying CO2 ice has been removed. The defrosting process works something like the way in which a pearl is created. One small part of the surface is exposed and it serves as a germination point. Because this small area of sand is much darker than the immediately adjacent ice covered areas, the energy of the Sun heats it more causing the adjacent ice to warm and sublimate. Try it out yourself. On a cold winter day when indoor humidity has frozen onto one of your windows, press one of your fingers against the window and hold it there. Then observe how the ice adjacent to your finer begins to melt as heat is transferred.

A Hungarian research team, in their zeal to prove the existence of life on Mars, proposed that similar spots seen in other Mars Global Surveyor images were most likely colonies of living organisms. As appealing as the notion of life on Mars is to me, I must say that this was a far-fetched proposal.

Source Image Background

The source image was taken by the Mars Global Surveyor Narrow Angle Camera in October 1999. The target area lies in the Mare Australe quadrangle of Mars, which encompasses the martian south pole. It was a mid-afternoon day in the early spring.

Image Processing

All processing of this image was done with Adobe Photoshop. Processing was limited to cropping, contrast enhancement, and colorization.


I have created a low resolution, highly compressed version of "Defrosting Martian Crater" for use as a desktop wallpaper. Because of the visual complexity of the image, very high JPEG compression was necessary to get the file size down to an acceptable size. Note that this wallpaper version is made available for your personal use only. It is not to be modified or redistributed in any form by any means. All rights are retained by the artist.

Defrosting Martian Crater Wallpaper
Defrosting Martian Crater, 1280 X 1024 Wallpaper Image by Jim Plaxco

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