Mars is one of Earth’s closest neighbours. Its enigmatic landscape has been explored by numerous missions for years.
It has a reddish colour because of fine dust that clings to frozen carbon dioxide in its atmosphere. This rusty haze gives Mars its characteristic appearance.
1. The Northern Polar Region
One of the most enigmatic regions of Mars is its northern polar region. It consists of the circular Planum Boreum plateau, which has accumulated water ice and dust particles from volcanic eruptions in the planet’s past.
It has also been influenced by the katabatic winds that carry cold dense air from polar glaciers and frozen plateaus down to lower elevations like valleys and depressions.
This is why we see the red and brown troughs in the picture above. They’re actually part of a network of troughs that form a spiral pattern.
Scientists think that these troughs began as part of the NPLD’s accumulation process about halfway through its history and then migrated poleward. This trough migration may have been caused by a combination of processes including solar insolation-driven sublimation of equatorward-facing ice, downslope transport of water vapor via katabatic winds, and ice-vapor condensation onto the poleward-facing slopes of the troughs.
2. The Curiosity Rover
This rover is the largest of NASA’s Mars rovers and is exploring Mars for signs of past or present life. The one-ton science lab was launched in 2011 and landed inside Gale Crater on August 6, 2012.
Curiosity is now climbing up Mount Sharp, a mountain 3 miles/5 kilometers tall that may have formed as mud at the bottom of a large, shallow lake. As it climbs, Curiosity is able to look at different sedimentary layers shaped by water billions of years ago.
The rover’s trek to this sulfate-rich region is a long and difficult one, with the vehicle having to navigate through an aeolian canyon filled with sand ripples that pose a threat to its wheels. But it’s worth the effort, because Curiosity will have an opportunity to drill into these sand blocks and place them in its oven for analysis.
3. The Meridiani Planum
The Meridiani Planum is a vast, flat plain on the planet Mars. It’s home to the rover Opportunity, which has spent almost 13 years exploring this region of the red planet.
The rover has detected a variety of features that reveal ancient water on the planet. These include a festoon cross-lamination, possible relict “hopper crystals”, thick weathering rinds on rock surfaces and resistant fracture fills.
The plain also contains an abundance of hematite-rich concretions, which are thought to have formed in acidic water. These spheres are referred to as “blueberries,” and NASA described the discovery as being a “hugely exciting find.”
4. The Russell Crater
Russell Crater is home to the largest known sand dune in the Solar System. It’s frequently imaged and scientists use it as a test site for studying small-scale processes on Mars.
In early spring images of the dune, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) scientist Cynthia Dinwiddie noticed airborne plumes erupting from linear gullies on the downwind slope of the megadune. She analyzed the data from two different cameras on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and found evidence of active processes that might be involved in these gully formations.
Previous researchers have proposed that these gullies could be created by CO2 ice block or snow cornice fall, but more proof is needed to support this model. The new results reveal that venting gas dislodges CO2 ice blocks that carve and modify gully channels.
5. The Tharsis Crater
The Tharsis Crater is an impact crater on Mars the planet. It has a diameter of approximately 450 miles and is the second largest crater on Mars.
The crater is located in the region of Tharsis in the western hemisphere of Mars and is home to a number of large shield volcanoes. These include the largest in the Solar System, Olympus Mons.
The crater is a relatively old one, dating back to about 180 million years ago. Scientists say it is a good example of the type of terrain that is older than what we see on other Martian regions.
6. The Tharsis Dunes
The Tharsis region of Mars, dominated by the enormous Olympus Mons volcano, is the largest volcanic province on the planet. It is also home to a number of impact craters that have cut through layers of dark sand and ash that were produced by early volcanism.
These craters form part of the radial fracture system that forms Mars’ global escarpment. The escarpment separates the ancient cratered highlands in the south from the younger northern plains in the north.
As the sand dunes developed on the Martian surface, they may have been aided by martian wind activity. Small drifts of sand are seen in the dune fields, and aeolian ridges appear in places.
7. The Tharsis Crater Tail
Tharsis is a region of Mars that includes the largest volcanoes on the planet. It is located on the western hemisphere of Mars and features 12 volcanoes.
The three biggest of these are Ascraeus Mons, Pavonis Mons, and Arsia Mons. They are surrounded by a series of smaller volcanic edifices and the surrounding plains consisting of young Amazonian lava flows.
There are also a number of huge outflow channels that debouch into Chryse Planitia, east of Tharsis. These are believed to be relics of massive floods of water that occurred between 3.4 to 3.6 billion years ago.
There are also many craters that have sharp and distinct rims, as well as vertical walls that extend down to their floors. These are called Atypical Pit Craters (APCs) and they are much larger than the usual pit craters found on Earth.
8. The Tharsis Crater
The Tharsis Crater is a large crack in the surface of Mars. It’s caused by tectonic processes that stretch and expand the surface, eventually causing it to crack.
The crater has a diameter of 28 kilometers and is 1200 meters deep. It’s young, as are most of the craters on Mars.
It is located in the Tharsis region of the planet, which is home to the largest volcanoes on the planet. The most impressive of these is Olympus Mons, which is 550 km in diameter and tallest in the Solar System.
Another important feature of Tharsis is the enormous shield volcanoes. These are unique on the planet and have no analogs on the moon or Mercury.
9. The Tharsis Crater
The Tharsis Crater of Mars is one of the largest in the Solar System. It is the site of a giant impact that spawned some of the planet’s most massive shield volcanoes.
These huge shield volcanoes were spawned by a plume of magma from a volcanic hot spot that formed deep in the mantle. Because of the lack of tectonic plates on Mars, this plume was able to build up over billions of years until it eventually deposited the Tharsis plateau.
These giant shield volcanoes were probably erupted from a deep part of the mantle where the temperature was abnormally hot, similar to the temperature of molten rock in Hawaii. The resulting magmas were able to build up the Tharsis Plateau and its associated fractured ridges over time.
10. The Tharsis Crater
Tharsis is a vast and complex topographic rise on Mars that dominates the western hemisphere. It is home to large shield volcanoes that appear to float astride the planet’s global escarpment and are surrounded by a system of radial fractures.
A superplume in the mantle has triggered a series of volcanic events that have built up the Tharsis region over the course of Mars’ history. This plume has fed a series of huge shield volcanoes, including the three Tharsis Montes (Arsia Mons, Pavonis Mons, and Ascraeus Mons) and Olympus Mons, in the west and Amazonis Planitia and Chryse Planitia on the east side of the bulge.
The region of Tharsis also features several large north-trending valleys that break out from the escarpment near the volcanoes in the northwest. These valleys, which debouch into Amazonis Planitia, are probably relics from catastrophic floods of water.