Click for full image.
Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on August 31, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what the science team labels a “possible contact between two units.”
I think that contact is the point where that eroded mountain touches the surrounding smooth canyon floor. The mountain itself looks to me to be a very eroded extrusion of lava that was placed there from below a very very long time ago, covered later by material, and now exposed for a long enough period that its surface appears to have been carved by wind and even possibly flowing water or ice.
Because it is lava it is more resistant to erosion, which is why it sits higher than the smooth terrain around it. Even though both experienced the same processes of wear over time, the mountain’s surface was only carved away partly, while the material that had been in the floor was washed away entirely.
This is all a guess. However, a look below at the overview map, showing this mountain’s location on Mars, as well as MRO’s wider view from its context camera, I think strengthens my hypothesis.
Click for full image.
The black cross in Candor Chasma marks the location of this mountain, on the floor of one of Valles Marineris’ side canyons.
The context camera image below shows that this extrusion is not alone, but part of a series that parallel a higher cliff to the south. The flow lines on all the extrusions are generally to the north-south, suggesting flows in that direction. However, that flow direction is perpendicular to the canyon’s overall trend to the east-west, which is a puzzle.
Note what appear to be giant mud cracks to the north of these extrusions, lower in the canyon floor. These suggest that water or ice was once prevalent here, but is now gone. The canyon is in the Martian equatorial regions, so for it to be dry is expected. The surface though does suggest that once ice and water were present, and caused some of the erosion we see.
The flow lines also seem to suggest that a major flood had flowed down from that southern cliff and poured over these extrusions, carving away at there shapes. If made of lava this would explain why they were only partially eroded.
At least, that’s my theory. I am willing to bet I am wrong, but I also know that more information will be needed to find out what is right.
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