pavonis mons

A hole in Mars

What created this unusual hole in Mars? The hole was discovered by chance in 2011 on images of the dusty slopes of Mars' Pavonis Mons volcano taken by the HiRISE instrument aboard the robotic Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter currently circling Mars. The hole appears to be an opening to an underground cavern, partly illuminated on the image right. Analysis of this and follow-up images revealed the opening to be about 35 meters across, while the interior shadow angle indicates that the underlying cavern is roughly 20 meters deep. Why there is a circular crater surrounding this hole remains a topic of speculation, as is the full extent of the underlying cavern. Holes such as this are of particular interest because their interior caves are relatively protected from the harsh surface of Mars, making them relatively good candidates to contain Martian life. These pits are therefore prime targets for possible future spacecraft, robots, and even human interplanetary explorers.

Image credit: NASA, JPL, U. Arizona

east tharsis region of mars, photographed by mars express, 17th july 2014.

below centre is ascraeus mons, the northernmost of the tharsis montes - below and left is pavonis, and below and left of that is arsia mons. at far right, level with pavonis mons, are the western valles marineris (i think they’re filled with cloud or fog).

8 images from the visual monitoring camera (basically a webcam stuck on the spacecraft, repurposed to give a low resolution overview of the planet).

image credit: esa. animation: ageofdestruction.

Pavonis Mons on Mars

Pavonis Mons, rising roughly 12 km above the surrounding plains, is the central volcano of the three ‘shield’ volcanoes that comprise Tharsis Montes. Gently sloping shield volcanoes are shaped like a flattened dome and are built almost exclusively of lava flows. The dramatic features visible in the colour image are located on the south western flank of the volcano. Researchers believe these are lava tubes, channels originally formed by hot, flowing lava that forms a crust as the surface cools. Lava continues to flow beneath this hardened surface, but when the lava production ends and the tunnels empty, the surface collapses, forming elongated depressions. Similar tubes are well known on Earth and the Moon. Pit chains, strings of circular depressions thought to form as the result of collapse of the surface, are also visible within the colour image.

Credits:ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

tharsis region of mars, photographed by mars express, 25th september 2014.

4 of mars’ best known volcanoes are visible: at top, near the terminator, olympus mons. at far right, in a line, ascraeus (top), pavonis (middle), and arsia mons (bottom). we have a slightly better view of the south polar region than the north, but this date (Ls 202.6) is early in the southern autumn, so the polar cap is not at its greatest extent.

10 images, playing forward then back in a loop. have slightly brightened the nightside to show the whole disc of the planet.

image credit: esa. animation: ageofdestruction


The Flaming Lips - Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Planetia Utopia)