Volcanic ash in Meridiani Planum

May 12, 2010
Meridiani Planum, at the northern edge of the southern highlands of Mars, lies between the volcanic Tharsis Region to the west and the low-lying Hellas Planitia impact basin to the south-east. Through a telescope, Meridiani Planum is a striking, dark feature, close to the martian equator. It extends 127 km by 63 km and covers an area of roughly 8000 sq km, about the size of Cyprus. This dark material probably resembles volcanic ash, which is predominantly composed of minerals such as pyroxene and olivine. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

Deposits of volcanic ash colour this view of the Meridiani Planum, as seen by the Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera. They also give clues to the prevailing wind direction in this region of Mars.

Meridiani Planum, a plain at the northern edge of the southern highlands of Mars, is half way between the volcanic Tharsis Region to the west and the low-lying Hellas Planitia impact basin to the south-east. Through a telescope, Meridiani Planum is a striking, dark feature, close to the martian equator.

Meridiani Planum extends 127 km by 63 km and covers an area of roughly 8000 sq km, which is about the size of Cyprus. It was chosen as a central reference point for Mars' geographical coordinate system. So the martian prime meridian, the equivalent of the Greenwich, UK, prime meridian on Earth, has been set to run through this region.

The (HRSC) took this image. It was obtained on 1 September 2005, during orbit 2097, at a resolution of about 13 m per pixel.

In the centre of the image, the floor of an almost 50 km wide is covered in dark material. This resembles , which is predominantly composed of minerals such as pyroxene and olivine. Poking through the dark covering are small mounds, probably made of more resistant material. The softer material around them has been eroded and blown out of the crater by north-easterly winds and now forms dark streaks on the surroundings.

An impact crater just 15 km wide, to the upper left, exhibits the same dark material on its south-western edge. It is likely that this material was blown into the smaller crater from the larger one. The nearly black structures are almost certainly dunes made of volcanic ash-rich sediments. In contrast, the 34-km-wide impact crater to the lower right of the image is largely filled with light material.

The southern area, to the left of the image below the smaller crater, exhibits dark features. Located on the lee side of ridges, these are probably similar deposits of ash-rich material, again blown out of the crater.

Explore further: Google exec makes record skydive from edge of space

Related Stories

Layered Crater on Mars

Jul 18, 2007

This image covers an impact crater roughly 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) in diameter. The subimage shows just a small segment of the crater rim (1336 x 889; 3 MB). ...

Impact Craters in Tyrrhena Terra

Jul 31, 2007

The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA’s Mars Express obtained images of the Tyrrhena Terra region on Mars.

'Happy face' crater on Mars

Apr 10, 2006

These images, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, show the Galle Crater, an impact crater located on the eastern rim of the Argyre Planitia impact basin ...

Hummocky and shallow Maunder crater

Oct 16, 2007

The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on ESA’s Mars Express orbiter has obtained pictures of the Noachis Terra region on Mars, in particular, the striking Maunder crater.

ESA Releases Mars Crater Dunes Images

Aug 24, 2004

These images, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, show a Martian crater with a dune field on its floor. The images were taken during orbit 427 in May 2004, and ...

Recommended for you

Hinode satellite captures X-ray footage of solar eclipse

8 hours ago

The moon passed between the Earth and the sun on Thursday, Oct. 23. While avid stargazers in North America looked up to watch the spectacle, the best vantage point was several hundred miles above the North ...

Asteroid 2014 SC324 zips by Earth Friday afternoon

18 hours ago

What a roller coaster week it's been. If partial eclipses and giant sunspots aren't your thing, how about a close flyby of an Earth-approaching asteroid?  2014 SC324 was discovered on September 30 this ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

deatopmg
1 / 5 (1) May 12, 2010
SInce this darker material absorbs more solar energy than the surrounding lighter material, I wonder if it's temperature is even higher than the surroundings 20 deg C??