Emily LakdawallaApr 08, 2010

Pretty (strange) picture from HiRISE: Dust flow crater?

Yesterday was the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE team's latest flood of archived images, 1,025 of them. You can browse them all here; they are provided with titles but most have little other descriptive information. I figured most people would browse the pages sequentially and not get through all 65 pages of thumbnails. Knowing I wouldn't scan them all either, I skipped forward to page 42 (what other number would I pick?) and started browsing from there. I saw gorgeous sand dunes, some pretty incredible recent gullies eroding crater walls and depositing fans onto crater floors, and lots of other cool stuff; but the image below won the prize for weirdness.

Strange flow-floored crater in Terra Sabaea
Strange flow-floored crater in Terra Sabaea The image is about 5 kilometers wide by 21 kilometers long. It is centered at 6.6° south, 20.1° east. NASA / JPL / UA

It's an impact crater, of course; the shape of the walls of the crater isn't anything unusual. But what the heck is going on in the crater floor? Here's a closeup:

Center of an odd crater in Terra Sabaea
Center of an odd crater in Terra Sabaea This Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE image is about 800 meters square and covers an area in the center of an impact crater in Terra Sabaea, Mars. NASA / JPL / UA

This isn't like the center of any other crater I've ever seen, with its wrinkly fractures and flow features. At least they look flow-ish. Flows of what? Lava? Dust? I haven't the foggiest idea. But the pictures are cool, aren't they? Go explore the archive for yourselves to find more cool stuff.

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