The Pits of Elysium Mons
The Pits of Elysium Mons
ESP_056026_2050  Science Theme: Fluvial Processes
During the 2018 Mars dust storm, we obtained a clear view of the summit of the giant volcano Elysium Mons. We see the western rim and floor of the caldera, and a chain of pits (called a “catena”) extending from the caldera towards the north. The chain of pits likely formed by volcanic processes, such as the collapse of a lava tube after it drained. Or by a tectonic process, such as a rift in the rocks below that drained loose material from the surface.

An unexpected feature of this catena is the presence of avalanches in two of the pits (marked A and B in the cutout, with the uphill direction towards the top of the image.) The flows in both pits could be ancient, produced during the formation of the catena, but they are not found in the other pits in the chain. They might have formed more recently by the collapse of steep dust deposits like those in a degraded crater to the left of the catena (marked C).

Written by: Paul Geissler (audio: Tre Gibbs)  (15 October 2018)
Acquisition date
10 July 2018

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
272.0 km (169.1 miles)

Original image scale range
54.3 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~163 cm across are resolved

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50 cm/pixel and North is up

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Solar incidence angle
61°, with the Sun about 29° above the horizon

Solar longitude
208.4°, Northern Autumn

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North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  335.5°
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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.