May 28, 2004

Mars Express Captures Arsia Mons in 3-D

Mars Express has released a three-dimensional image of the Arsia Mons shield volcano in high resolution.

Astrobiology Magazine -- This image of the Arsia Mons shield volcano was taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express.

This image shows a spectacular zone of collapse features on the southern flank of the giant shield volcano Arsia Mons (located at 239°E longitude and 10°S latitude, see the Mars map image).

The image was taken from an altitude of about 400 kilometers during orbit 263 of the Mars Express spacecraft.

The original image resolution was 20 meters per pixel, but the versions shown here have been reprocessed to reduce the volume of data for use on the internet.

The main red-green anaglyph image, covering an area of 38 kilometres by 53 kilometers, is a detail section of the top left of the black and white image below, which covers an area of 80 kilometers by 105 kilometers.

The total height difference in the land surfaces in these scenes is about 7 kilometers, and some individual collapse pits have a depth of 2 kilometers.

The pits probably formed when lava erupted from the side of Arsia Mons. When lava, or molten rock, finds its way to the surface, it produces several veins and chambers. These slowly empty as the lava erupts and runs down the volcano flanks.

Some of the lava reaching the surface cools down and becomes solid, often building a roof over the emptied chamber. The resulting voids collapse due to the weight of the overlying material. At several places, the walls of the pits have been modified by later landslides.

The overall trend of the collapse zone runs from the south-west to the north-east, following exactly a giant zone of crustal weakness in the Tharsis region, along which the three large volcanoes Arsia, Pavonis and Ascraeus Montes are aligned. The 3D images require stereoscopic glasses to view.

About Mars Express

Mars Express will remain in orbit around the Red Planet for at least one Martian year, 687 Earth days, which is the nominal mission lifetime.

During this time, the point of the orbit closest to Mars (pericentre) will move around to give the scientific instruments coverage of the entire Martian surface at all kinds of viewing angles.

During each orbit, Mars Express spends some time turned towards the planet for instrument observations and some time turned towards Earth for communications with ground stations.

Data collected by the orbiter instruments is transmitted to an ESA ground station at New Norcia near Perth, Australia, at a rate of up to 230 kbps. Between 0.5 and 5 Gbits of scientific data is downlinked from the spacecraft to Earth every day.

From Perth they are sent on to the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, which adds spacecraft attitude and orbital data, and then retransmits the data to the instrument Principal Investigators (PI) for further processing and analysis.


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