Valleys Carved into Elysium Mons
Valleys Carved into Elysium Mons
ESP_013144_2075  Science Theme: Fluvial Processes
This image is of the flanks of the shield volcano Elysium Mons. The volcano is considered to be the youngest within the Elysium Mons province, which also contains the volcanoes Hecates, Tholus, and Albor Tholus.

Of course, “young” is a relative term. The last eruption of Elysium Mons could well have been a billion years or more ago.

This image shows a series of flat bottomed valleys along the flanks of Elysium Mons. There is considerable debate on exactly how these valleys form. In Hawaii, the classic example of shield volcanoes on Earth, similar valleys are carved by prodigious rainfall. While some rain may have fallen in the earliest epochs of Mars’ geologic history, the lack of small drainage networks shows that these Martian channels were not carved by rain.

However, mudflows and lava flows could potentially erode the sides of the volcano. An important hint for the origin of the valleys comes from the chain of pits visible in the northern part of the image. These pits form as the ground is pulled apart by Marsquakes. Thus it seems that many of these valleys are first formed by movement along faults. Then mud and/or lava flows widen the sides of the valley and give it a flat floor.

Written by: Shawn D. Hart  (17 June 2009)
Acquisition date
16 May 2009

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
286.3 km (178.0 miles)

Original image scale range
57.3 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~172 cm across are resolved

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50 cm/pixel and North is up

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Solar incidence angle
67°, with the Sun about 23° above the horizon

Solar longitude
267.0°, Northern Autumn

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North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  318.5°
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NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.