This image shows a cross-section of a portion of the north polar ice cap of Mars, derived from data acquired by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's Shallow Radar (SHARAD), one of six instruments on the spacecraft.
The data depict the region's internal ice structure, with annotations describing different layers. The ice depicted in this graphic is approximately 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) thick and 250 kilometers (155 miles) across. White lines show reflection of the radar signal back to the spacecraft. Each line represents a place where a layer sits on top of another. Scientists study how thick the pancake-like layers are, where they bulge and how they tilt up or down to understand what the surface of the ice sheet was like in the past as each new layer was deposited.
Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/UT