Astronomy Picture of the Day
November 30, 2012

Unnamed Impact Crater with Lava-carved Gullies
Unnamed Impact Crater with Lava-carved Gullies

Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/Lunar Explorer Italia/IPF

This frame, taken by the NASA - MarS Reconnaissance Orbiter, shows us an Unnamed Peri-Equatorial Impact Crater about 3-Km (such as approx. 1,8 miles) wide, located in a Martian Region (the Southern portion of Elysium Planitia) that, at some point in a - most likely - very ancient past, has been flooded by Lava. The Lava has overtopped the Rim in at least two areas (to the South/West and to the North/West - such as at approx. 5 and 2 o' clock of the Rim itself) and then created a Pond (---> Lake-like Feature) on the Crater Floor.

Where the Lava flowed down the steep Crater Slope, it carved Gullies. In fact, there are similar Gullies also on the steep Slopes of many Craters located on the Moon but, in this second case, they were probably carved by Impact Melt (such as rock that has been turned into a - relatively - dense liquid as a consequence of the extreme high temperatures that were reached in the area where the Crater formed and at the time of the impact), rather than Volcanic Lava.

The Dark Streaks seen elsewhere on the Crater Slopes should come from small Dust Avalanches. Furthermore, on the Plains outside the Crater there are distinctive Surface Features that form from a process known as "Lava Inflation" (a process that occurs when and where Molten Lava is injected under a solid Crust and, after some time, it raises back onto the Surface). It must be said and underlined, however, that only Lava behaves in this manner: not Mud or other Fluids that might have been present on Mars.

Mars Local Time: 15:33 (Middle Afternoon)
Coord. (centered): 1,258° South Lat. and 161,856° East Long.
Spacecraft altitude: 270,3 Km (such as about 168,9 miles)
Original image scale range: 27,0 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~ 81 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale: 25 cm/pixel
Emission Angle: 3,6°
Sun-Mars MRT (or "Phase") Angle: 51,0°
Solar Incidence Angle: 54° (meaning that the Sun was about 36° above the Local Horizon at the time the picture was taken)
Solar Longitude: 153,3° (Northern Summer- Southern Winter)
Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Additional process. and coloring: Lunar Explorer Italia

This picture (which is a NASA - Original Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter b/w frame, identified by the serial n. ESP_028321_1785) has been additionally processed and then colorized in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and then looked down, towards the Surface of Mars), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team.

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