Bruce Murray Space Image Library

Lava swirls in a channel in Cerberus Palus, Mars

Lava swirls in a channel in Cerberus Palus, Mars
Lava swirls in a channel in Cerberus Palus, Mars These swirls formed in a channel northwest of a pedestal crater in Cerberus Palus, Mars, near the equator. Zoomed from. At full resolution, the image has a scale of 27 centimeters per pixel. NASA / JPL / UA

The original image can be viewed here. The swirls were described in a paper published in Science by Ryan Anderson and Phil Christensen:

The spiral patterns in Cerberus Palus are morphologically consistent with lava coils on Earth that form on the surface of active and stagnated pahoehoe lava flows and lava lakes. Terrestrial lava coils range from 5 cm to at least 10 m in diameter. Two types of coils have been observed in terrestrial lava flows, each with slightly different characteristics and formation processes. The first forms along distinct shear zones between two blocks of crust above flowing lava. .... The second, larger form also develops in shear zones where wrinkles in thin congealed lava skins or molten lava exuded through ephemeral shear cracks rotate slowly. .... With few exceptions, terrestrial lava coil orientation is consistent with the direction of shearing, although such shears are commonly not preserved: Clockwise-in coils record right-lateral shear, whereas counterclockwise-in coils record left-lateral shear.

Here is a series of images that provide context:

Pedestal crater in Cerberus Palus, Mars
Pedestal crater in Cerberus Palus, Mars A pedestal crater near Mars' equator in a plain southwest of Athabasca Valles. The crater is about 2 kilometers in diameter. NASA / JPL / MSSS
Channel northwest of a pedestal crater, Cerberus Palus, Mars
Channel northwest of a pedestal crater, Cerberus Palus, Mars A pedestal crater near Mars' equator in a plain southwest of Athabasca Valles. The crater is about 2 kilometers in diameter. Zoomed from this photo. NASA / JPL / MSSS
Channel in Cerberus Palus, Mars
Channel in Cerberus Palus, Mars HiRISE image of a channel northwest of a pedestal crater in Cerberus Palus, Mars, containing lava swirls. Zoomed from this photo. At full size, the image has a resolution of 1 meter per pixel. NASA / JPL / UA

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