The style of erosion along the highlands-lowlands boundary of southern Elysium Planitia has produced a strange pattern of troughs that look like the skin of a reptile. In reality, a very clear process of landscape degradation is evident in this image. Some process has produced polygon-shaped troughs that create zones of weakness in the uppermost crust. It is likely that wind-blown particles deepen and widen the troughs, producing isolated knobs and mesas. Ultimately, the erosional reworking of the landscape is so complete that all signs of the upper layer are removed, leaving the smooth lowland surface to the north.
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.