A Crater Gets Torn in Half
A Crater Gets Torn in Half
ESP_030559_2135  Science Theme: Tectonic Processes
Planetary surfaces can be very complex and record many different events and modifications. Scientists try to reconstruct the history of these surfaces by looking to see how features overlap.

In this image you can see a circular impact crater about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) across. Cutting through the crater is a trench running from the top of the image to the bottom. Geologists call these trenches “graben,” which actually means “trench” in German. They are formed when the surface stretches apart to the left and right forming cracks. When these cracks open a block of rock can drop downwards, this block is the flat floor of the trench you see here.

In this case, the crater existed first before the graben formed. Half of the crater rim is sitting on the trench floor while the other half remains on the surrounding high ground. Despite being torn in two by the graben, both halves of the crater are in pristine condition indicating that these features are all geologically young.

Written by: Shane Byrne (audio by Tre Gibbs)  (13 March 2013)
Acquisition date
01 February 2013

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
286.6 km (178.1 miles)

Original image scale range
57.6 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~173 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
70°, with the Sun about 20° above the horizon

Solar longitude
256.3°, Northern Autumn

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North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  317.3°
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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. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.