New cracks across old Martian lava flows

New cracks across an old lava flow
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Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on June 4, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It captures one of the many deep straight fissure canyons that make up the feature dubbed Cerberus Fossae in the center of Mars’ volcano country.

The crack is called a graben, and happens when the ground is either stretched from pressure from below, or when two adjacent large blocks of material move sideways relative to each other.

What makes this particular graben interesting are two features. First, the overlapping break suggests something complex took place at this spot when the crack separated. Second, the crack cut across the foot of an older frozen lava flow, meaning it has to be younger than that flow.

The overview map below provides a clue when that lava flow might have occurred, while also suggesting this crack in Cerberus Fossae might be much younger than expected.
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A crack in the Martian crust

Crack in the Martian crust
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Cerberus Fossae

The photograph to the right, reduced and cropped to post here, was imaged on October 20, 2019 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows a spectacular thousand-foot-deep canyon in the region of Cerberus Fossae, an area of Mars crossed by numerous deep east-west fissures and depressions.

Hidden in the small white box on the eastern end of that canyon are Martian geological features, small and at first glance not that interesting, that are of great significance and the focus of intense research.

The map to the right shows an overview of the region. The yellow cross shows the location of this particular crack.

In my previous post about Cerberus Fossae, I had incorrectly assumed that these cracks and similar lines of pits or depressions were caused by the sinking of surface material into underground lava tubes. While this is possible in some cases, it is not the main cause of these cracks. Instead, they were formed due to the pressure from below caused by the rise of the surrounding giant volcanoes, Elysium Mons to the north and Olympus Mons to the east. That pressure stretched the crust until it cracked in numerous places. In Cerberus Fossae this produced a series of parallel east-west fissures, some more than seven hundred miles long.

The young age of Cerberus Fossae is dramatically illustrated by the wider mosaic below, showing the entire crack.
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