Martian pimples

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Pimples on Mars!
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The image to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, is one of those terrain sample images the science team of the high resolution camera of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) takes periodically when they have a gap in their observation schedule with no specific requests for images of the terrain below. Still, they need to use the camera regularly to keep its temperature maintained, so they then take a somewhat random picture over that terrain, based partly on information from lower resolution images but without a strong sense of what they will find.

In this case, they found what I dub pimples, raised mounds with small holes at their peaks. The image, taken on November 30, 2019, is located is in the northern lowlands, at a latitude (45 degrees) where subsurface ice is possible. Thus, we could be looking at water ice volcanoes.

Very few high resolution images have been taken of this area, with no others close by. Thus, the overall context of these mounds is hard to gauge. They could be widespread, or very localized.

The unknowns here and general lack of research suggests this location and these mounds are ripe research for some postdoc student interested in planetary geology.



  • Tom Billings

    With their diameter exceeding 500 meters, these are substantial structures. If they are, indeed, water ice volcanoes, then they have substantial value as both ISRU positions and as convenient places to place a settlement that melts burrows for settlers into the ice, even as it gains the Hydrogen and Oxygen for making propellants and other uses for that water. It gives the best radiation protection possible for settlers, with tens of meters of Ice overhead, while having an ease of access to that Ice that few other sites can match. No long treks to get the daily water ration this way.

    45º from the equator as well. Now, if we can just find more of these, …..

    Has anyone told SpaceX landing site planners about them??

  • Tom Billings: I doubt this location has been considered as an early human landing site. If so more high res images would have been taken.

    Moreover, SpaceX’s present primary area of interest for landing Starship, near Erebus Montes in Arcadia Planitia, is actually at a lower latitude, with lots of very well documented ice.

  • Max

    More cool, unexpected features. Thanks for posting these, it must be time consuming to go through so many pictures.

    Even in the low lands, there is not enough air pressure to have liquid or frozen water on the surface for very long before it boils away.
    Water would cut channels it to the surface creating Canyons flowing down from the peak creating delta sediment formations around the base. I suspect these are mounds of mineral/salts.
    If pressurized geysers of warm water was sprayed into the air, H402 most likely evaporated before hitting the ground leaving mineral deposits behind, similar to Cinder cones near volcanic vents on earth.

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