Mars Chaos

Of all the places I’d want to visit on Mars, this would be high on my list. After travelling to the bottom of Hellas Planitia (for the thick atmosphere and possibly finding liquid water) and the summit of Olympus Mons (for the view), I’d be sure to have a scout around Ariadnes Colles, in the southern hemisphere (pictured above).

The Ariadnes Colles region may not be a household name, but looking at these new high resolution images coming from the Mars Express orbiter, I can’t help but be impressed…

The detail in the image captured by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express (using the High Resolution Stereo Camera) shows various features between 1-10 km wide. Looking almost like a complex of broken glass, the detail in the landscape is amazing.

According to planetary scientists, such fragmented features may have been caused by the rapid flow of water, making the surface rock slump and fragment, but this particular region of the Red Planet is not thought to have been a source of significant amounts of water. It seems more likely that these chaotic shapes are actually shaped by the Martian winds.

To the top right of the image above, there is also a bonus crater, approximately 30 km in diameter (and 1.2 km deep), with a secondary crater (10 km diameter) inside. The larger crater is approximately the same surface area as a city, about that of Hamburg, Germany.

Perspective view of Ariadnes Colles by Mars Express (ESA)

This is a fascinating region of the Martian surface, where a variety of features enrich the scene. I might even visit Ariadnes Colles before I decide to make an attempt at scaling Olympus Mons after all

Source: Universe Today (Nancy Atkinson)

5 thoughts on “Mars Chaos”

  1. There will be no view from the top of the Martian shield volcanoes – the slope is very, very gradual. You might not even perceive that you are on a mountain.

    Go for some of the remaining mid-latitude glaciers, instead.

  2. Hi Ian
    Is it my imagination or do I really see evidence of sorting here – larger blocks at the bottom of the first image, smaller blocks at the top? Possible evidence of viscous flow from bottom to top – perhaps glacial?

  3. @Steve: You just killed my dream (you are probably right though) 😉

    @Tim: Funnily enough, you are right about the pattern of the blocks, but I don’t think these things could have been moved, I reckon they’ve always been stationary. Still, have a look at the region on Google Mars:

    A very obvious East-West difference in features… perhaps it’s a case of different types of rock?

  4. Thanks for the context pic. from Google. Those wavy lineations that appear to demarcate the boundaries of chaotic terrain look vaguely like tectonic extensional features. Perhaps this area has been uplifted – maybe a magma chamber centred near the centre left of the chaotic area. Subsequent fracturing of the area over the uplift and slow restricted flow towards the periphery of the uplift might produce this sort of pattern. Smoothed topographic contours of the area may still show topographic expression of the speculated uplift. Very interesting topography that may hold clues to Mars active tectonic era.

  5. Thanks for this article – I love it! What a great region to explore, but you would need good maps :)) You can imagine how many hiking/climbing adventure businesses will spring up in this area.

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