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Colour image of Aureum Chaos
Science & Exploration

The mesas of Aureum Chaos

22/04/2005 2139 views 1 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Space Science / Mars Express

These images, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft, show the 'chaotic' terrain of the Aureum Chaos region on Mars.

The HRSC obtained these images during orbit 456 with a resolution of approximately 25 metres per pixel. The scenes show an area located at about 3º South and 335º East.

Aureum Chaos is located in the eastern part of Valles Marineris, south-west of the 280 kilometre-wide impact crater Aram Chaos. Like this impact basin, both regions are two examples of the chaotic terrain contained in this part of the Valles Marineris.

As the name ‘chaos’ suggests, this terrain is characterised by randomly oriented, large-scale mesas and knobs that are heavily eroded and dominate the area. As seen in the main colour image, these mesas range from a few kilometres to tens of kilometres wide.

Close-up perspective view of Aureum Chaos, looking north
Close-up perspective view of Aureum Chaos, looking north

In the north (right-hand side) of this image, a well-defined scarp extends in an east-west direction.

‘Slump and collapse’ blocks can be distinguished at the base of this scarp, as highlighted in this close-up perspective view.

Near the southern border (middle left-hand side) of the colour image, a roughly five kilometre-wide region of bright material is observed. This material appears to form distinct layers that may have been created by the evaporation of fluids or by hydrothermal activity (see lower right-hand corner of the perspective view below).

Perspective view of Aureum Chaos, looking north-east
Perspective view of Aureum Chaos, looking north-east

Another interesting region of bright material also extends north to south in the centre of the colour image and is also visible along the left side of this perspective view.

Close-up perspective view  of Aureum Chaos, looking north-west
Close-up perspective view of Aureum Chaos, looking north-west

The history of Aureum Chaos is complex. It appears that this basin was filled with sediment and then experienced the formation of chaotic terrain. It is thought that this extremely rough terrain is caused by collapse of the surface due to the removal of subsurface ice, magma or water.

By supplying new image data for Aureum Chaos, the HRSC allows scientists to improve their understanding of Mars. In particular, the colour and stereo capability of the HRSC allows improved studies of the planet’s morphology (the evolution of rocks and landforms). By analysing reflected light at different wavelengths, we can determine minerals that make up the various geological features within the scene.

3D anaglyph view of Aureum Chaos
3D anaglyph view of Aureum Chaos

Data from the HRSC, coupled with information from the other instruments on ESA’s Mars Express and other missions, will provide new insights into the geological evolution of the Red Planet and also pave the way for future missions.

The colour images were processed using the HRSC nadir (vertical view) and three colour channels. The perspective views were calculated from the digital terrain model derived from the stereo channels.

Black and white view of Aureum Chaos
Black and white view of Aureum Chaos

The 3D anaglyph image was created from the nadir channel and one of the stereo channels. Stereoscopic glasses are needed to view the 3D image. Image resolution has been decreased for use on the internet.

For more information on Mars Express HRSC images, you might like to read our updated 'Frequently Asked Questions'.

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