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T. N. Titus (Oak Ridge Associated Universities), H. H. Kieffer, K. F. Mullins (U.S. Geological Survey)
The recession of the south polar cap has been observed telescopically and from spacecraft in both the visible and thermal regions. Although a simple cap-edge versus time plot has commonly been used, without regard as to the longitude of measurement, Mariner 9, Viking, and HST observations clearly show that the retreating edge is irregular and asymmetric.
The data used in this analysis is from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES). Repeated TES coverage over the period Ls 185 through Ls 270 acquired much of the cap recession.
During this period of time, TES was taking data in the array normal spin (ANS) mode, scanning acrossed the planet as the satellite made one complete roll every 100 minutes. Therefore, the data was irregularly sampled in both space and time. Also, because of the changes in the spacecraft orbit, the spatial resolution of the data is variable, ranging from 25 to 125 kilometers.
We have constructed a map of the south polar region that contains the date when the last CO2 sublimates, hereafter called the crocus date. The crocus date is based on sliding a representative temperature - versus - time curve along the observations for each location in the polar region and selecting the season of maximum temperature change.
Recessions in the classic area ``Mountains of Mitchell'' are delayed significantly, disappearing approximately at Ls 260. High resolution (26 Km) brightness temperature data at Ls 244 confirms that solid CO2 is the dominant cold component.
One region (approx. 72-80 S, 180-250 W) within the annual polar cap became dark long before the temperatures begin to rise; in comparison with most areas that showed a gradual increase in brightness until a rapid darkening as the temperature rose well above CO2 frost value. This dark region, here after called the Kidney Bean region, appears to be a major contributor to the asymmetric polar recession. The cause of the Kidney Bean region's unexpected behavior is currently under study.