Tithonium Chasma

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Tithonium Chasma
Tithonium Chasma THEMIS mosaic.jpg
Tithonium Chasma in mosaic of THEMIS infrared images, with parts of Ius and Candor chasmata visible at the bottom and far right, respectively. The roughly parallel crater chains and grabens of the Tithoniae Catenae and Tithoniae Fossae are visible both above and below Tithonium Chasma.
Coordinates 4°36′S84°42′W / 4.6°S 84.7°W / -4.6; -84.7 Coordinates: 4°36′S84°42′W / 4.6°S 84.7°W / -4.6; -84.7
Naminga classical albedo feature name

Tithonium Chasma is a large canyon in the Coprates quadrangle of Mars at 4.6° south latitude and 84.7° west longitude. It is about 810 km long and was named after a classical albedo feature. [1]

Coprates quadrangle

The Coprates quadrangle is one of a series of 30 quadrangle maps of Mars used by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Astrogeology Research Program. The Coprates quadrangle is also referred to as MC-18. The Coprates quadrangle contains parts of many of the old classical regions of Mars: Sinai Planum, Solis Planum, Thaumasia Planum, Lunae Planum, Noachis Terra, and Xanthe Terra.

Mars Fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System after Mercury. In English, Mars carries a name of the Roman god of war, and is often referred to as the "Red Planet" because the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance that is distinctive among the astronomical bodies visible to the naked eye. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, having surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the valleys, deserts, and polar ice caps of Earth.

The classical albedo features of Mars are the light and dark features that can be seen on the planet Mars through an Earth-based telescope. Before the age of space probes, several astronomers created maps of Mars on which they gave names to the features they could see. The most popular system of nomenclature was devised by Giovanni Schiaparelli, who used names from classical antiquity. Today, the improved understanding of Mars enabled by space probes has rendered many of the classical names obsolete for the purposes of cartography; however, some of the old names are still used to describe geographical features on the planet.


Valles Marineris Canyon System

Tithonium Chasma is a major part of the largest canyon system in the solar system; this great canyon would go almost all the way across the United States. The name for the whole system of canyons is Valles Marineris. Starting at the west with Noctis Labyrinthus in the Phoenicis Lacus quadrangle, the canyon system ends in the Margaritifer Sinus quadrangle with Capri Chasma and Eos Chasma (in the south). The word Chasma has been designated by the International Astronomical Union to refer to an elongate, steep-sided depression. Valles Marineris was discovered by and named for the Mariner 9 mission. Moving east from Noctis Labyrinthus, the canyon splits into two troughs, Tithonium and Ius Chasma in the south. In the middle of the system are very wide valleys of Ophir Chasma (north), Candor Chasma, and Melas Chasma (south) and farther to the east is Coprates Chasma. At the end of Coprates Chasma, the valley gets wider to form Capri Chasma in the north and Eos Chasma in the south. The walls of the canyons often contain many layers. The floors of some of the canyons contain large deposits of layered materials. Some researchers believe that the layers were formed when water once filled the canyons. The canyons are deep as well as long; in places, they are 8-10 kilometers deep. In comparison, the Earth's Grand Canyon is only 1.6 kilometers deep. [2]

Valles Marineris vallis on Mars

Valles Marineris is a system of canyons that runs along the Martian surface east of the Tharsis region. At more than 4,000 km (2,500 mi) long, 200 km (120 mi) wide and up to 7 km (23,000 ft) deep, Valles Marineris is one of the largest canyons of the Solar System, surpassed in length only by the rift valleys of Earth.

Noctis Labyrinthus labyrinthus on Mars

Noctis Labyrinthus is a region of Mars between Valles Marineris and the Tharsis upland. It is located in the Phoenicis Lacus quadrangle. The region is notable for its maze-like system of deep, steep-walled valleys. The valleys and canyons of this region formed by faulting and many show classic features of grabens, with the upland plain surface preserved on the valley floor. In some places the valley floors are rougher, disturbed by landslides, and there are places where the land appears to have sunk down into pit-like formations. It is thought that this faulting was triggered by volcanic activity in the Tharsis region. Research described in December 2009 found a variety of minerals, including clays, sulfates, and hydrated silicas, in some of the layers.

Phoenicis Lacus quadrangle

The Phoenicis Lacus quadrangle is one of a series of 30 quadrangle maps of Mars used by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Astrogeology Research Program. The Phoenicis Lacus quadrangle is also referred to as MC-17. Parts of Daedalia Planum, Sinai Planum, and Solis Planum are found in this quadrangle. Phoenicis Lacus is named after the phoenix which according to myth burns itself up every 500 years and then is reborn.


Images of rocks in the canyon walls almost always show layers. Some layers appear tougher than others. In the image below of Ganges Chasma Layers, as seen by HiRISE, one can see that the upper, light-toned deposits are eroding much faster than the lower darker layers. Some cliffs on Mars show a few darker layers standing out and often breaking into large pieces; these are thought to be hard volcanic rock instead of soft ash deposits. Because of its closeness to the Tharsis volcanic region, the rock layers may be made of layer after layer of lava flows, probably mixed with deposits of volcanic ash that fell out of the air following big eruptions. It is likely the rock strata in the walls preserve a long geological history of Mars. [3] Dark layers may be due to dark lava flows. The dark volcanic rock basalt is common on Mars. However, light-toned deposits may have resulted from rivers, lakes, volcanic ash, or wind blown deposits of sand or dust. [4] The Mars Rovers found light-toned rocks to contain sulfates. Probably having been formed in water, sulfate deposits are of great interest to scientists because they may contain traces of ancient life. [5] MRO discovered sulfates, hydrated sulfates, and iron oxides in Tithonium Chasma with its CRISM instrument. [6]

Lava Molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption

Lava is molten rock generated by geothermal energy and expelled through fractures in planetary crust or in an eruption, usually at temperatures from 700 to 1,200 °C. The structures resulting from subsequent solidification and cooling are also sometimes described as lava. The molten rock is formed in the interior of some planets, including Earth, and some of their satellites, though such material located below the crust is referred to by other terms.

Basalt A magnesium- and iron-rich extrusive igneous rock

Basalt is a mafic extrusive igneous rock formed from the rapid cooling of magnesium-rich and iron-rich lava exposed at or very near the surface of a terrestrial planet or a moon. More than 90% of all volcanic rock on Earth is basalt. Basalt lava has a low viscosity, due to its low silica content, resulting in rapid lava flows that can spread over great areas before cooling and solidification. Flood basalt describes the formation in a series of lava basalt flows.

<i>Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter</i> Space probe

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is a multipurpose spacecraft designed to conduct reconnaissance and exploration of Mars from orbit. The US$720 million spacecraft was built by Lockheed Martin under the supervision of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The mission is managed by the California Institute of Technology, at the JPL, in Pasadena, California, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. It was launched August 12, 2005, and attained Martian orbit on March 10, 2006. In November 2006, after five months of aerobraking, it entered its final science orbit and began its primary science phase. As MRO entered orbit, it joined five other active spacecraft that were either in orbit or on the planet's surface: Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Express, 2001 Mars Odyssey, and the two Mars Exploration Rovers ; at the time, this set a record for the most operational spacecraft in the immediate vicinity of Mars. Mars Global Surveyor and the rover Spirit have since ceased to function. Opportunity has remained silent since June 10, 2018, and NASA declared its mission complete on February 13, 2019. As of that date, 2001 Mars Odyssey and MRO continue to remain operational.


High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is a camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The 65 kg (143 lb), US$40 million instrument was built under the direction of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. It consists of a 0.5 m (19.7 in) aperture reflecting telescope, the largest so far of any deep space mission, which allows it to take pictures of Mars with resolutions of 0.3 m/pixel, resolving objects below a meter across.

Related Research Articles

Oudemans (crater) crater on Mars

Oudemans is a crater on Mars, approximately 90 kilometers in diameter, named after Dutch astronomer Jean Abraham Chrétien Oudemans (1827–1906).

Eos Chasma chasma on Mars

Eos Chasma is a chasma in the southern part of the Valles Marineris canyon system of the Coprates quadrangle and the Margaritifer Sinus quadrangles of the planet Mars.

Candor Chasma chasma on Mars

Candor Chasma is one of the largest canyons in the Valles Marineris canyon system on Mars. The feature is geographically divided into two halves: East and West Candor Chasmas, respectively. It is unclear how the canyon originally formed; one theory is that it was expanded and deepened by tectonic processes similar to a graben, while another suggests that it was formed by subsurface water erosion similar to a karst. MRO discovered sulfates, hydrated sulfates, and iron oxides in Candor Chasma.

Juventae Chasma chasma on Mars

Juventae Chasma is an enormous box canyon on Mars which opens to the north and forms the outflow channel Maja Valles. Juventae Chasma is located north of Valles Marineris in the Coprates quadrangle and cuts more than 5 km into the plains of Lunae Planum.

Melas Chasma Chasma on Mars

Melas Chasma is a canyon on Mars, the widest segment of the Valles Marineris canyon system, located east of Ius Chasma at 9.8°S, 283.6°E in Coprates quadrangle. It cuts through layered deposits that are thought to be sediments from an old lake that resulted from runoff of the valley networks to the west. Other theories include windblown sediment deposits and volcanic ash. Support for abundant, past water in Melas Chasma is the discovery by MRO of hydrated sulfates. In addition, sulfate and iron oxides were found by the same satellite. Although not chosen as one of the finalists, it was one of eight potential landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover, a mission with a focus on astrobiology.

Trouvelot (Martian crater) crater on Mars

Trouvelot is a crater on Mars, located in the Oxia Palus quadrangle at 16.2° north latitude and 13.1° west longitude near the crustal dichotomy in the circum-Chryse region. It is roughly located along the dichotomy between Arabia Terra to the northeast and the southernmost of the circum-Chryse outflow channels to the southwest. Trouvelot crater measures approximately 149 kilometers in diameter and was named after Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, a French astronomer (1827–1895). The naming was adopted by IAU's Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature in 1973.

Eos Chaos chaos on Mars

Eos Chaos is a rough, collapsed area in the Coprates quadrangle on Mars at 16.8° south latitude and 46.9° west longitude. It is about 490 km long and was named after the Greek name of Aurora, an albedo feature.

Capri Mensa mensa on Mars

Capri Mensa is a mesa in the Coprates quadrangle of Mars at 14° south latitude and 47.4° west longitude. It is about 275 km long and was named after a classical albedo feature name.

Ophir Chasma chasma on Mars

Ophir Chasma is a canyon in the Coprates quadrangle of Mars at 4° south latitude and 72.5° west longitude. It is about 317 km long and was named after Ophir, a land mentioned in the Bible. In the Bible it was the land which King Solomon sent an expedition that returned with gold. It is a classical albedo feature name.

Ius Chasma chasma on Mars

Ius Chasma is a large canyon in the Coprates quadrangle of Mars at 7° south latitude and 85.8° west longitude. It is about 938 km long and was named after a classical albedo feature name.

Coprates Chasma chasma on Mars

Coprates Chasma is a huge canyon in the Coprates quadrangle of Mars, located at 13.4° south latitude and 61.4° west longitude, part of the Valles Marineris canyon system. It is 966 km (600 mi) long and was named after a classical albedo feature name.

Ritchey (Martian crater) crater on Mars

Ritchey is a crater on Mars, located in the Coprates quadrangle at 28.8° South and 51° West. It measures 79 kilometers in diameter and was named after George W. Ritchey, an American astronomer (1864–1945). Ritchey lies south of Valles Marineris and north of Argyre Planitia, a large impact crater. There is strong evidence that it was once a lake.

Ganges Mensa mensa in the Coprates quadrangle of Mars

Ganges Mensa is a mesa and an interior layered deposit in Ganges Chasma, one of the peripheral valleys of Valles Marineris on Mars. The mesa rises up to 4 kilometres (13,000 ft) from the floor of Ganges Chasma, nearly to the same elevation as the surrounding plateaux of Lunae Planum. Like Hebes Mensa, the mesa is completely separated from the surrounding canyon walls and has sustained significant erosion that has caused it to retreat in areal extent.

Lakes on Mars

In summer 1965, the first close-up images from Mars showed a cratered desert with no signs of water. However, over the decades, as more parts of the planet were imaged with better cameras on more sophisticated satellites, Mars showed evidence of past river valleys, lakes and present ice in glaciers and in the ground. It was discovered that the climate of Mars displays huge changes over geologic time because its axis is not stabilized by a large moon, as Earth's is. Also, some researchers maintain that surface liquid water could have existed for periods of time due to geothermal effects, chemical composition or asteroid impacts. This article describes some of the places that could have held large lakes.

Louros Valles

Louros Valles is a valley on the planet Mars in the Coprates quadrangle. It sits on the southern edge of Ius Chasma. It is east of Noctis Labyrinthus. It displays many layers. Many places on Mars show rocks arranged in layers. Rock can form layers in a variety of ways. Volcanoes, wind, or water can produce layers. A detailed discussion of layering with many Martian examples can be found in Sedimentary Geology of Mars.


  1. "Tithonium Chasma" . Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. USGS Astrogeology Research Program.
  2. ISBN   0-8165-1257-4
  3. http://themis.asu.edu/features/coprateschasma
  4. http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/PSP_005385_1640
  5. http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/PSP_007430_1725
  6. Murchie, S. et al. 2009. A synthesis of Martian aqueous mineralogy after 1 Mars year of observations from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Journal of Geophysical Research: 114.

See also

In planetary geology, a chasma is a deep, elongated, steep-sided depression. As of January 2013, the IAU has named 118 such features in the Solar System, on Venus (63), Mars (24), Saturn's satellites Mimas (6), Tethys (2), Dione (8) and Rhea (5), and Uranus's satellites Ariel (7), Titania (2) and Oberon (1). An example is Eos Chasma on Mars.

Geology of Mars Scientific study of the surface, crust, and interior of the planet Mars

The geology of Mars is the scientific study of the surface, crust, and interior of the planet Mars. It emphasizes the composition, structure, history, and physical processes that shape the planet. It is analogous to the field of terrestrial geology. In planetary science, the term geology is used in its broadest sense to mean the study of the solid parts of planets and moons. The term incorporates aspects of geophysics, geochemistry, mineralogy, geodesy, and cartography. A neologism, areology, from the Greek word Arēs (Mars), sometimes appears as a synonym for Mars's geology in the popular media and works of science fiction.

Tectonics of Mars

Like the Earth, the crustal properties and structure of the surface of Mars are thought to have evolved through time; in other words, as on Earth, tectonic processes have shaped the planet. However, both the ways this change has happened and the properties of the planet's lithosphere are both very different when compared to the Earth. Today, Mars is believed to be largely tectonically quiescent. However, observational evidence and its interpretation suggests that this was not the case further back in Mars' geological history.