Mars’ Misty Mountains

Article written: 1 Apr , 2011
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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Looking like Mars’ version of Land of the Lost, these two mist-capped volcanoes are located in the Tharsis region in Mars’ northern hemisphere. In this latest set of images released by the Mars Express team, a desolate looking landscape is softened by icy clouds drifting past the summit of Ceraunius Tholus, with the smaller Uranius Tholus to the right. No dinosaurs or Sleestaks are visible, but it looks like Uncle Jack could show up any minute!

The image was created from three different passes over the region by the spacecraft, and – surprisingly – during the middle orbit the clouds showed up. By the time Mars Express crossed again and took the final strip of data needed for this image, the clouds had long since dispersed and so there is a sharp line across them in the finished mosaic.

See below for a 3-D, perspective view of these two volcanoes.

Mars' volcanoes Ceraunius Tholus and Uranius Tholus in 3-D. Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum). Click for larger version.

Tharsis region — often called the Tharsis Bulge — is a continent-size volcanic plateau in Mars’ western hemisphere. The region is home to the largest volcanoes in the solar system, including the three enormous shield volcanoes Arsia Mons, Pavonis Mons, and Ascraeus Mons. The tallest volcano on the planet, Olympus Mons, is way off to the western side of the Tharsis plateau.

See the Mars Express website for more information and more images of Ceraunius Tholus and Uranius Tholus.

The images were taken during 2004-2006.

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4 Responses

  1. Jon Hanford says

    This is OT (but Mars related)…..

    Looks like Faux News has scooped most scientists once again (remember the recent ‘evidence’ for life from Mars ‘discovered’ in meteorites). Seems a rocket scientist believes a “natural nuclear blast” occurred 180 Mya on the northern Mare Acidalium region of Mars. The blast is said to be the equivalent to one million one-megaton H-bombs. Uh, yeah: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/04/01/natural-nuclear-blast-mars/#content

    Also he notes this radiation “also explains why the planet looks red.” !

    Well I’ll be gobsmacked. 🙂

    • Lawrence B. Crowell says

      This has got to make you wonder how smart these guys are. Ok, a guy named Brandenburg says it happened, which might mean this conjecture should be checked out with others. It looks like they ran with the story. It would require a good amount of U-235 for this to happen, which is highly unlikely given short half lives. This has to be in a pretty pure form as well. The U-235 has to be coincident with a neutron source and to make it really work some way the U-235 nuclei must be brought to close proximity. This is the whole business of imploding cores or the gun barrel method of slamming two chunks together at high velocity. Could this all happen together? Yes, but extremely unlikely. It would require a meteoroid slamming into the U-235 which is also subjected to a neutron source. Maybe the meteoroid had a lot of U-235 and was recently generated by a nearby supernova. Not impossible, but very unlikely.

      Natural nuclear reactors have happened, where one existed in N Congo about 1.6 billion years ago.

      LC

    • Member
      IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

      I think that was a Fox News “April Fool” joke; however, it’s hard to tell when they are just joking or really serious!

      • Jon Hanford says

        LOL. I think you may be right, this is probably April Fool fodder, but like you say, with Faux who knows what’s up wrt science reportage.

        The mention of the Oklo natural reactor & Tunguska probably should have been a tipoff, and they never really discuss what actually happened. The Harrison Schmidt “general validity” part was pretty funny though.

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