Up and Down the Marius Hills

Looking a little like a lunar air base complete with landing strips this patch of rugged terrain was posted on the forum by kodemunkey who came across it on one of his regular visits to the Marius hills region of Oceanus Procellarum. It’s difficult to see what’s going on without looking at the wider picture. Below are 2 views of the immediate surroundings under different illumination angles. It’s a good example of how the appearance of the lunar landscape changes under different sun angles. The pale tracks in the first image appear black in the second and only by examining both images can we get a full picture of the surrounding terrain. Click on the NAC references to explore the area in more detail. Note the NACs are rotated 1800 and the following images are corrected for north up.
Incidence angle 75.3
NACs M193289571LE and M193289571RE
Incidence angle 36.2
NACs M183861185LE and M183861185RE

14.3N -50.6W

An even wider view places the feature north west of Marius R crater in an area where the outer rays from Aristarchus, Kepler and several craters to the west overlap on the eastern edge of the Marius hills. This particularly rugged terrain is also marked by lava flows, sinuous rilles and mare ridges. About half of the Moon’s volcanic domes are in this region. Lunar domes are much smaller than shield volcanoes on Earth. The Marius hills range from 200-500m in height whereas the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii (the largest shield volcano on Earth) is 17,170m tall. Here is a wide field image with the featured region indicated showing its proximity to the Marius domes:

image from Global Morphologic Map

Photographed from a more oblique angle by the LRO’s Wide Angle Camera the domes are more impressive:

from LPOD 

So what is going on in kodemunkey’s image? Rotating the image so that north is up and using the topography graph from the ACT-REACT Quick Map shows a steep drop from west to east. Lava flows appear to have created a complex knot of ridges and valleys. The pale tracks at top left are very bouldery and connect to 2 small craters suggesting that they are more recent landslides and flow from higher ground towards the lower rugged region.

bigger image

Kodemunkey found his image from the latest LRO data release 11.

ACT-REACT Quick Map link
Paper: Compositional variability of the Marius Hills volcanic complex from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3)


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About juleswilkinson

Citizen scientist and volunteer. Forum moderator for the Milky Way Project, Solar Stormwatch, Science Gossip and Shakespeare's World. Owner of 3 telescopes, a dog and a meteorite.

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