Small Cones North of Olympus Mons
NASA/JPL/UArizona
Small Cones North of Olympus Mons
PSP_006667_2150  Science Theme: Volcanic Processes
Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the Solar System and is thought to have been active in the relatively recent past (which on Mars means many millions of years ago). While this towering giant gets a lot of the attention, it is surrounded by a vast field of other volcanic features. This HiRISE image takes a close look at one set of intriguing landforms: small cones.

Cones similar to these are found atop the freshest lava flows on Mars in Athabasca Valles. In that location, HiRISE found proof that they formed by steam exploding through the lava flow. The steam was produced by boiling water (or ice) in the ground underneath the lava flow. Could the same thing have happened here?

Unfortunately, HiRISE finds that this area north of Olympus Mons is covered in a thick layer of dust. While the wonderful resolution of HiRISE reveals details of the ripples in the dust, it cannot show us what is underneath the dust. Therefore we cannot prove that these cones formed the same was as the Athabasca Valles cones. They could be small volcanic vents, but it is unlikely that so many small eruptions would have taken place so close together.

However, since we cannot show that the ground under the dust is lava, we cannot rule out non-volcanic processes. Still, the similarity in the shapes and sizes of these cones to the ones in Athabasca Valles leaves open the possibility that water and lava interacted explosively here.


Written by: Laszlo P. Keszthelyi  (6 February 2008)

This is a stereo pair with PSP_006957_2150.
 
Acquisition date
28 December 2007

Local Mars time
14:23

Latitude (centered)
34.444°

Longitude (East)
225.118°

Spacecraft altitude
293.2 km (182.2 miles)

Original image scale range
29.4 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~88 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection
Equirectangular

Emission angle
4.0°

Phase angle
41.7°

Solar incidence angle
45°, with the Sun about 45° above the horizon

Solar longitude
9.5°, Northern Spring

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  330.7°
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POSTSCRIPT
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.