Astronomy Picture of the Day
May 9, 2013

Unusual Landforms (Part I)
Unusual Landforms (Part I)

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

This image, taken by the NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on March 28, 2013, shows us a number of shallow and Irregular Pit-like Features with Raised Rims, all concentrated along Ridges and other Topographic Features (---> Surface Reliefs). How did these unusually-looking Surface Features form? One idea is that they could be the final and visible result of the Sublimation of shallow lenses of nearly pure Ice but, even assuming that this theory is correct, why do the Pits have Raised Rims? So far, nobody was good enough to answer to that question.

If we keep reasoning about the possible nature of these Surface Features, we also have to say that they cannot - reasonably - be just shallow Impact Craters, because such an alignment seems extremely unlikely (and the irregular margins of the alleged "Impact Craters" would be even harder to explain); furthermore, these Landforms cannot even be Wind-blown Deposits of Material because, all the way next to them, can be seen very many Boulders which are way too big (and therefore too heavy!) to be moved simply by the Wind.

As you can see, there are younger Wind-blown Drifts on top of the Pits and, for the time being, we have not found a clear (---> substantiated) connection between these Landforms and some possible Volcanic Phenomenon. However, a few Planetary Scientists speculated that there might have been ancient Oceans over this Region, but could this possibility, even if it is correct, somehow be good to satisfactorily explain these Features? The answer is no. Last, but not least, what we see in this frame could also be the result of an ancient Glaciation where, perhaps, powerful Winds deposited Ice-rich Debris next to Topographic Obstacles.

Future (and closer) images of this Region may provide us with more clues but, for now, this Landforms are still a mystery. Just one of the many, of course...

Mars Local Time: 14:20 (Early Afternoon)
Coord. (centered): 30,959° North Lat. and 339,402° East Long.
Spacecraft altitude: 293,8 Km (such as about 182,449 miles)
Original image scale range: 58,8 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~ 1 mt and 76 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale: 50 cm/pixel
Emission Angle: 2,6°
Phase Angle: 62,5°
Solar Incidence Angle: 64° (meaning that the Sun was about 26° above the Local Horizon at the time the picture was taken)
Solar Longitude: 290,8° (Northern Winter - Southern Summer)
Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Additional process. and coloring: Lunar Explorer Italia

This picture (which is a NASA - Original Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter NON-Map Projected CTX b/w frame identified by the serial n. ESP_031268_2115) 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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