TES showed that “White Rock” is neither white nor rock. The unusual feature in Pollack Crater, known for decades, has a spectrum that matches Martian dust, implying it is a stack of hardened dust layers.
White Rock got its nickname when contrasty image processing gave the feature, which measures about 15 by 18 km (9 by 11 miles), a chalky-bright appearance and suggested it was made of water-deposited sediments, like the salty residue of a dried-up desert lake. However, the Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) found that White Rock was built of wind-blown dry sediments. The image seen here was taken at visible-light wavelengths by another instrument, the Thermal Emission Imaging System on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter.
- Kieffer, H. H., T. Titus, K. Mullins, and P. R. Christensen, Mars south polar cap behavior observed by TES: Seasonal cap evolution controlled by frost grain size, J. Geophys. Res., 105, 9653-9700, 2000.
- Kieffer, H. H., and T. N. Titus, TES mapping of Mars' north seasonal cap, Icarus, 154, 162-189, 2001.