This nighttime infrared image, taken by the thermal emission imaging system, captures a massively disrupted region on Mars called Hydaspis Chaos, which is located near the equator at two degrees north, 29 degrees west. The total vertical difference from the lowest to highest points in this region is about five kilometers (three miles.)
The steep slopes leading down into the canyon of Hydaspsis Chaos are strewn with rocks, while the plateaus and mesas above are covered in dust. This pattern indicates that processes are at work to prevent the dust from completely covering the surface of these slopes, even over the very long period since these canyons were formed.
The slopes and floor of these canyons show remarkable variability in the distribution of rocks and fine-grained material. Chaotic terrain may have been formed when subsurface ground water or ice was removed, and the overlying ground collapsed. The release of this water or ice (or both) formed the outflow channel Tiu Valles, which flowed across the Mars Pathfinder landing site.
This image captures a region of chaotic terrain about 106 kilometers (65 miles) long and 32 kilometers (20 miles) wide. The channel that feeds into the chaos at the bottom of the image is about 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) wide and 280 meters (930 feet) deep. The image was acquired on February 19, 2002. North is to the right of the image.
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 was provided by Arizona State University, Tempe. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, is the prime contractor for the 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.