Triple-Crater in Elysium Planitia
Triple-Crater in Elysium Planitia
ESP_039147_1940  Science Theme: Impact Processes
This image shows a triple impact crater in Elysium Planitia near Tartarus Montes, which probably formed when a binary—or even triple—asteroid struck the surface. (Binary asteroids orbit each other, while also orbiting the Sun). The two larger craters must have been produced by asteroids of approximately the same size, on the order of a few hundred meters across.

The northern crater might have been created by a smaller asteroid, which was orbiting the larger binary pair, or when one of the binary asteroids broke up upon entering the atmosphere. The shape of the triple-crater is oblong, suggesting an oblique impact; therefore, another alternative would be that the asteroid split upon impact and ricocheted across the surface, creating additional craters.

What evidence is visible in this image that shows that the three craters did not form independently? The ejecta blanket appears to be uniform around the triple-crater showing no signs of burial or overlapping ejecta from overprinting craters. The crater rims are significantly stunted where the craters overlap.

Written by: Eric Pilles, Livio Tornabene, Ryan Hopkins, Kayle Hansen (audio: Tre Gibbs)  (21 January 2015)

This is a stereo pair with ESP_039292_1940.
Acquisition date
02 December 2014

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
280.8 km (174.5 miles)

Original image scale range
56.3 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~169 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
50 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
61°, with the Sun about 29° above the horizon

Solar longitude
245.0°, Northern Autumn

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  330.1°
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IRB color
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IRB color
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Black and white
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non-map           (156MB)

IRB color
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non-map           (155MB)

Merged IRB
map projected  (299MB)

Merged RGB
map-projected  (277MB)

RGB color
non map           (149MB)
Map-projected, reduced-resolution
Full resolution JP2 download
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RGB: red-green-blue
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Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
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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.