An isolated mesa east of the Phlegra Montes in northeastern Elysium Planitia has a cracked surface that, combined with its overall shape, gives the appearance of a giant loaf of bread. Other mesas with similar surfaces are found in the area, suggesting that at one time these mesas were part of a continuous layer of material. It is likely that at that time, some process caused the graben-like cracks to form. Later erosion of the cracked layer left only the isolated mesas seen in the THEMIS image. One clue that supports this scenario is the presence of many filled and eroded craters throughout the scene but no fresh ones. One way to produce this landscape begins with an ancient and heavily cratered surface that subsequently is buried by some other material. If this overburden was stripped off relatively recently, not enough time would have passed to allow for a new population of fresh craters to be produced. The result would be a landscape with isolated mesas of younger material on top of an ancient, cratered surface.
Note: this THEMIS visual image has not been radiometrically nor geometrically calibrated for this preliminary release. An empirical correction has been performed to remove instrumental effects. A linear shift has been applied in the cross-track and down-track direction to approximate spacecraft and planetary motion. Fully calibrated and geometrically projected images will be released through the Planetary Data System in accordance with Project policies at a later time.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) was developed by Arizona State University, Tempe, in collaboration with Raytheon Santa Barbara Remote Sensing. The THEMIS investigation is led by Dr. Philip Christensen at Arizona State University. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, is the prime contractor for the Odyssey project, and developed and built the orbiter. Mission operations are conducted jointly from Lockheed Martin and from JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.