Crater? Pit? Volcano?


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Crater? Pit? Volcano?
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photograph on the right, cropped to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on April 16, 2019 of the slope of a mountain inside a region dubbed Eridania that is part of the planet’s southern highlands.

The photograph, released as part of the June image release from MRO, came with no caption. Furthermore, the image title, “Eridania Mons,” provided no additional information, which is why I clicked on it. The vagueness of the title made me curious.

The full image shows a generally featureless plain. Near the image’s bottom however was the geological feature shown in the cropped section to the right. At first glance one thinks it is a crater. This first impression can’t be the entire story, because the feature is raised above the surrounding terrain, and in that sense is more like a small volcano with a caldera. The irregular pit inside the caldera kind of confirms this conclusion.

I would not bet much money on this conclusion. The overall terrain of the Eridania quadrangle is filled with craters, large and small. There does not seem to be any obvious evidence of past volcanic activity, and if there had been it has not expressed itself in large volcanoes.

However, other images of this mountain show many circular features that at first glance appear to be craters like the featured image. They appear slightly raised above the surrounding terrain, though not in as pronounced a manner.

They all could be small volcanoes. Or maybe they are impacts that hit a dense surface which prevented them from drilling too deep down, and instead caused the crater to be raised above the surrounding terrain.

‘Tis a puzzle. The irregular pit in this particular feature adds to the mystery. It does not look like the kind of pits one sees in calderas. Instead, its rough edge suggests wind erosion.

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4 comments

  • Tom

    I believe the local soil may have something to do with this. To me, it appears to be an impact crater where the object hit some deep, thick, porous type soil, kept it from hitting bedrock and absorbed most of the impact energy. Almost all of the other nearby craters look like this one and have eroded over a short span of time. Only a few smaller recent craters can be found and they all look as if they stopped the impact with very little ejecta and hardly any disturbance to the impacting body. You can see the impactors as dots in their middle. On top of that, it looks like the area “flattens” itself out more frequently that area closer to bedrock. As if some tidal of other forces are at work. This should be a very interesting place to explore!

  • brightdark

    We’re just going to have to go there and find out. :)

  • Alex

    Burst Bubble ?

  • wodun

    Just a dude playing a dude pretending to be another dude.

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