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European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter snaps a volcanic trench on Mars

A new image of the surface of Mars captured by a European and Russian orbiter shows a stunning overhead view of deep trenches in the surface of the planet created by activity from nearby volcanoes.

Mars is host to Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system, and volcanic activity has played a key part in the evolution of the planet. It’s not clear whether there is still volcanic activity going on there today, but there definitely was at some point in its past. You can see evidence of the volcanism in the lava flows and lava planes that are found on its surface, as well as many volcanoes like Olympus Mons.

 This image of the young volcanic region of Elysium Planitia on Mars shows two blue parallel trenches called Cerberus Fossae.
This image of the young volcanic region of Elysium Planitia on Mars [10.3°N, 159.5°E] was taken on 14 April 2021 by the CaSSIS camera on the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO). The two blue parallel trenches in this image, called Cerberus Fossae, were thought to have formed by tectonic processes. They run for almost one thousand km over the volcanic region. In this image, CaSSIS is looking straight down into one of these 2 km-wide fissures. ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS
Another feature in the Martian landscape left by volcanic activity is deep trenches like the Cerberus Fossae trenches recently imaged by the CaSSIS camera on the European Space Agency and Roscosmos’s Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO). This pair of trenches, located in the volcanic Elysium Planitia region, was likely formed by tectonic activity related to volcanism.

This is a false-color image, meaning that its colors have been processed to show the depth of the trenches in dark blue. The trenches are more than a mile wide and run for around 600 miles across the region. Taken from directly overhead, this image is looking down into the several hundred-meter-deep trenches.

“The floor here is a few hundred meters deep and is filled with coarse-grained sand, likely basaltic in composition, which appears blue in the CaSSIS false-color composite image,” ESA writes. “The flat volcanic plains nearby are punctured by small impact craters, which expose possibly the same basaltic materials that we see within Cerberus Fossae.”

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