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: NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

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

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

4 hours ago

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

Apr 18, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

Apr 18, 2014

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

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??

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.