THEMIS: Collapsed lava tubes on Pavonis Mons

Collapsed lava tubes on Pavonis Mons (THEMIS_IOTD_20171103)THEMIS Image of the Day, November 3, 2017. This image shows part of the southeastern flank of Pavonis Mons. Surface lava flows run down hill from the top left of the image to the bottom right. Perpendicular to that trend are several linear features. These are faults that encircle the volcano and also run along the linear trend through the three Tharsis volcanoes.

This image illustrates how subsurface lava tubes collapse into the free space of the empty tube. Just to the top of the deepest depression are a series of circular pits. The pits coalesce into a linear feature near the left side of the deepest depression.

The mode of formation of a lava tube starts with a surface lava flow. The sides and top of the flow cool faster than the center, eventually forming a solid, non-flowing cover of the still flowing lava. The surface flow may have followed the deeper fault block graben (a lower surface than the surroundings). Once the flow stops there remains the empty space lower than the surroundings, and collapse of the top of the tube starts in small pits which coalesce in the linear features.

Pavonis Mons is one of the three aligned Tharsis Volcanoes. The four Tharsis volcanoes are Ascreaus Mons, Pavonis Mons, Arsia Mons, and Olympus Mars. All four are shield type volcanoes. Shield volcanoes are formed by lava flows originating near or at the summit, building up layers upon layers of lava. The Hawaiian islands on Earth are shield volcanoes. The three aligned volcanoes are located along a topographic rise in the Tharsis region. Along this trend there are increased tectonic features and additional lava flows.

Pavonis Mons is the smallest of the four volcanoes, rising 14 km above the mean Mars surface level with a width of 375 km. It has a complex summit caldera, with the smallest caldera deeper than the larger caldera. Like most shield volcanoes the surface has a low profile. In the case of Pavonis Mons the average slope is only 4 degrees.

NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft has spent over 15 years in orbit around Mars, circling the planet more than 69,000 times. It holds the record for longest working spacecraft at Mars. THEMIS, the IR/VIS camera system, has collected data for the entire mission and provides images covering all seasons and lighting conditions.

Over the years many features of interest have received repeated imaging, building up a suite of images covering the entire feature. From the deepest chasma to the tallest volcano, individual dunes inside craters and dune fields that encircle the north pole, channels carved by water and lava, and a variety of other feature, THEMIS has imaged them all.

For the next several months the Image of the Day will focus on the Tharsis volcanoes, the various chasmata of Valles Marineris, and the major dunes fields. We hope you enjoy these images!

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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