Columnar Jointing on Mars and Earth
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Columnar Jointing on Mars and Earth
ESP_029286_1885  Science Theme: Volcanic Processes
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HiRISE first discovered columnar jointing on Mars in 2009 (Milazzo et al. 2009). This jointing is an exciting discovery because it forms when molten lava is cooled quickly by liquid water resulting in columns of polygonal-shaped rock. Finding evidence like this for large amounts of liquid water on Mars is important for understanding the planet's climate history and habitability.

This image shows columnar jointing at a new site, previously unreported. These distinctly jointed layers are located on the northern wall of an 18-kilometer (approximately 10 miles) crater inside Isidis Planitia.

During a recent field trip near Moscow, Idaho, HiRISE scientists visited a site with similar columnar jointing. The sizes of the columns are only slightly different (the columns in the HiRISE image are a few yards across, while the ones we saw on Earth are only a few feet across). Smaller columns may also be present at this site, but they would be below even HiRISE's ability to resolve. The columns on Mars most likely formed in the same way as the columns we see on the Earth.

If you look at the enhanced color version, you can almost imagine those people walking along the base of that cliff, studying the geology of Mars in person.

Written by: Ingrid Daubar   (5 December 2012)

This is a stereo pair with ESP_030143_1885.

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Acquisition date
25 October 2012

Local Mars time:

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Range to target site
276.4 km (172.8 miles)

Original image scale range
27.7 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~83 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle:

Phase angle:

Solar incidence angle
56°, with the Sun about 34° above the horizon

Solar longitude
194.9°, Northern Autumn

North azimuth:

Sub-solar azimuth:
Black and white
map projected  non-map

IRB color
map projected  non-map

Merged IRB
map projected

Merged RGB
map projected

RGB color
non-map projected

Black and white
map-projected   (514MB)

IRB color
map-projected   (262MB)

Black and white
map-projected  (214MB)
non-map           (289MB)

IRB color
map projected  (73MB)
non-map           (234MB)

Merged IRB
map projected  (128MB)

Merged RGB
map-projected  (123MB)

RGB color
non map           (225MB)
Map-projected, reduced-resolution
Full resolution JP2 download
Anaglyph details page

B&W label
Color label
Merged IRB label
Merged RGB label
EDR products

IRB: infrared-red-blue
RGB: red-green-blue
About color products (PDF)

Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
For scale, use JPEG/JP2 black & white map-projected images

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.