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IAG Planetary Geomorphology Working Group

Featured images for February 2008:

Olympus Mons, Mars

Images and caption contributed by Daniela Tirsch.

The shield volcano, Olympus Mons is located in the Tharsis region on Mars and is the highest and most prominent volcano in the solar system. It has an elevation of more than 21 km and a width of about 640 km [Bleacher et al., 2007]. On the adjacent lowland plains north and west of the volcano, there is a highly fractured areas known as the Olympus Mons aureole resulting from the fall and sliding of the flank slopes under gravity [Basilevsky et al., 2005]. Image 1 shows an HRSC perspective view of the summit caldera which has a depth of about 3 km and a diameter of 60 x 90 km [Jaumann et al., 2007]. The close-up reveals a tongue-shaped landslide on the southern wall. The six coalescing depressions of the caldera of Olympus Mons suggest a sequence of at least six episodes of caldera collapse [Hauber and Neukum, 2006]. Crater counts of the caldera floors reveal an age of 100 to 200 Ma [Neukum et al., 2004].

Olympus Mons Caldera

Image 1: HRSC perspective view of the summit caldera on Olympus Mons. Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum) [image source][high resolution version]

Unlike the other Tharsis volcanoes, the basaltic shield volcano edifice of Olympus Mons is bounded on all sides by steep scarps with a height of 3-6 km [Basilevskaya et al., 2006]. The origin of these edge scarps remains open to discussion. Image 2 shows the ≤ 6 km high eastern flank where several large fan-shaped deposits, interpreted to be landslides. Such mass movements can be also found on the northern, northwestern and western flank of the volcano.

Between the edge of the lowland plains and the bottom of the volcano slope, so-called 'wrinkle ridges' are observable. These landforms are interpreted as the result of compressional deformation. They are 100-300 m wide and up to 50-100 m high [Basilevsky et al., 2006]. In some places, wrinkle ridges border the arch-like terraces at the foot of the volcano slope. The lowland plains typically have a smooth surface and comprise several channel-like features. These features form a broad network composed of anastomosing and intersecting channels that are several kilometers long and up to 40 m deep. A tectonic control of this area is suggested by several incisions, while others show streamlined islands and terraced walls suggesting outflow activity. Age determinations show that the network-bearing area was geologically active as recent as 30 Ma ago [Neukum et al., 2004].

Olympus Mons Perspective East

Image 2: Eastern flank of Olympus Mons. Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum) [image source][high resolution version]

Around the flanks of Olympus Mons there are also ice-dust and glacier deposits visible, e.g. glacier-like lobate flows and tongue-like flows [Neukum et al., 2004]. The surface above the summit plateau's eastern flank shows lava flows, which have a length of several kilometers and a width of a few hundred meters [Basilevsky et al., 2006]. Age determinations show that they are up to 200 Ma old, in some places even older, indicating episodic geologic activity [Neukum et al., 2004; Basilevsky et al., 2006].

References and further Reading:

Basilevskaya, E. A., G. Neukum, and The HRSC Co-Investigator Team (2006): The Olympus Volcano on Mars: Geometry and Characteristics of Lava Flows, Solar System Research, 40 (5), 375-383, doi:10.1134/S0038094606050029. [abstract]

Basilevsky, A. T., G. Neukum, B. A. Ivanov, S. K. Werner, S. van Gasselt, J. W. Head, T. Denk, R. Jaumann, H. Hoffmann, E. Hauber, T. McCord, and the HRSC Co-Investigator Team (2005): Morphology and Geological Structure of the Western Part of the Olympus Mons Volcano on Mars from the Analysis of the Mars Express HRSC Imagery, Solar System Research, 39, 85-101. [abstract]

Basilevsky, A. T., S. C. Werner, G. Neukum, J. W. Head, S. van Gasselt, K. Gwinner, and B. A. Ivanov (2006): Geologically recent tectonic, volcanic and fluvial activity on the eastern flank of the Olympus Mons volcano, Mars, Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L13201, doi:10.1029/2006GL026396, 2006. [abstract]

Bleacher, J.E., R. Greeley, D.A. Williams, S.C. Werner, E. Hauber, and G. Neukum (2007): Olympus Mons, Mars: Inferred changes in late Amazonian aged effusive activity from lava flow mapping of Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera data, Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, E04003, doi:10.1029/2006JE002826. [abstract]

Hauber, E., and G. Neukum (2006): Mars: simply red?, Astronomy and Geophysics 47 (2), pp. 16-24. [abstract]

Jaumann, R., G. Neukum, T. Behnke, T.C. Duxbury, K. Eichentopf, J. Flohrer, S. van Gasselt, B. Giese, K. Gwinner, E. Hauber, H. Hoffmann, A. Hoffmeister, U. Köhler, K.-D. Matz, T.B. McCord, V. Mertens, J. Oberst, R. Pischel, D Reiss, E. Ress, T. Roatsch, P. Saiger, F. Saiger, F. Scholten, G. Schwarz, K. Stephan, M. Wählisch, and the HRSC Co-Investigator Team (2007): The high-resolution stereo camera (HRSC) experiment on Mars Express: Instrument aspects and experiment conduct from interplanetary cruise through the nominal mission, Planetary and Space Science, 55, 928-952. [abstract]

Neukum, G., R. Jaumann, H. Hoffmann, E. Hauber, J. W. Head, A. T. Basilevsky, B. A. Ivanov, S. C. Werner, S. van Gasselt, J. B. Murray, T. McCord, and The HRSC Co-Investigator Team (2004): Recent and episodic volcanic and glacial activity on Mars revealed by the High Resolution Stereo Camera, Nature, 432, 971-979. [abstract]

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