Valleys Carved into Elysium Mons
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Valleys Carved into Elysium Mons
ESP_013144_2075  Science Theme: Fluvial Processes
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This image is of the flanks of the shield volcano Elysium Mons.

The volcano is considered to be the youngest within the Elysium Mons province, which also contains the volcanoes Hecates, Tholus, and Albor Tholus.

Of course, "young" is a relative term. The last eruption of Elysium Mons could well have been a billion years or more ago.

This image shows a series of flat bottomed valleys along the flanks of Elysium Mons. There is considerable debate on exactly how these valleys form. In Hawaii, the classic example of shield volcanoes on Earth, similar valleys are carved by prodigious rainfall. While some rain may have fallen in the earliest epochs of Mars' geologic history, the lack of small drainage networks shows that these Martian channels were not carved by rain.

However, mudflows and lava flows could potentially erode the sides of the volcano. An important hint for the origin of the valleys comes from the chain of pits visible in the northern part of the image. These pits form as the ground is pulled apart by Marsquakes. Thus it seems that many of these valleys are first formed by movement along faults. Then mud and/or lava flows widen the sides of the valley and give it a flat floor.

Written by: Shawn D. Hart   (17 June 2009)

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Acquisition date
16 May 2009

Local Mars time:

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Range to target site
286.3 km (178.9 miles)

Original image scale range
57.3 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~172 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
50 cm/pixel and North is up

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Emission angle:

Phase angle:

Solar incidence angle
67°, with the Sun about 23° above the horizon

Solar longitude
267.0°, Northern Autumn

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Sub-solar azimuth:
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Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
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All of the images produced by HiRISE and accessible on this site are within the public domain: there are no restrictions on their usage by anyone in the public, including news or science organizations. We do ask for a credit line where possible:
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona. The image data were processed using the U.S. Geological Survey’s ISIS3 software.