Pit Craters in Cyane Fossae
Pit Craters in Cyane Fossae
PSP_003370_2140  Science Theme: Tectonic Processes
This image shows several pits along the floor of Cyane Fossae, a set of fissures between the giant volcanoes of Olympus Mons and Alba Patera (northeast of Olympus Mons).

The fissures probably formed when the surface of the planet was actively being "stretched" from the stresses of volcanic activity, causing the surface to split open along faults. There is no material piled up around the edges of the pits, as would be expected if these were impact craters or volcanic vents. Instead, parts of the Fossae floor likely collapsed into the void underlying Cyane Fossae, forming the pits. This type of process, in which the crust is split open, has occurred here on Earth, and it created the geologic "basin and range" province of the western United States.

The walls of the pits are likely covered in dust and the few dark streaks along the walls are likely formed by avalanches of dust. Striations along the slope may be produced by the passage of dust devils. Dust also appears on the floors of the collapse pits and covered most of the plains nearby. Despite the presence of this layer of dust, bouldery outcrops occur in places along the wall, suggesting that the underlying material is hard and rocky.

Written by: Colin Dundas  (5 July 2007)

Acquisition date
16 April 2007

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
285.9 km (177.7 miles)

Original image scale range
28.7 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~86 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel and North is up

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Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
70°, with the Sun about 20° above the horizon

Solar longitude
219.9°, Northern Autumn

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North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  329.2°
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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.