Astronomy Picture of the Day
January 7, 2013

Features of Nili Patera
Features of Nili Patera

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

This frame, taken by the NASA - Mars Odyssey Orbiter during its 48.021st orbit around the Red Planet shows us a portion of the very large Dunefield that covers most of the Floor of Nili Patera. This ancient Volcano, located in the Martian Region of Syrtis Major, spans about 50 Km (about. 31,5 miles) wide, 2 Km (such as a little more than 1 mile) deep, and forms part of a bigger Caldera Complex that stretches some 400 Km (a little less than 250 miles) along a North-to-South direction. What gives Nili Patera special interest for Planetary Geologists is that it contains two kinds of Lava: Basalt and Dacite. This is an unusual circumstance for Mars, where most Lavas are Basalt, and this discovery showed that the Red Planet is, even from a Volcainc point of view, an extremely complex world.

Furthermore, the execution of a series of Gravity Field Measurements which covered the whole Region, showed evidence of a Positive Gravity Anomaly, centered on the Caldera Complex, and suggesting the presence, deep under the Surface, of an approx. 600-by-300 Km (such as about 373-by-186 miles), North-to-South oriented and elongated (now extinct) Magma Chamber, probably containing some very dense Minerals (like, for instance and mainly, Pyroxene, with Olivine also possible).

Latitude: 8,95193° North
Longitude: 67,3367° East
Instrument: VIS
Captured: October, 11th, 2012

This frame (which is an Original Mars Odyssey Orbiter b/w frame published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 16653) 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 Odyssey 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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