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Mars Exploration Program



Spallanzani Crater

Although most of the best examples of layered sedimentary rock seen on Mars are found at equatorial and sub-tropical latitudes, a few locations seen at mid- and high-latitudes suggest that layered rocks are probably more common than we can actually see from orbit. One extremely good example of these "atypical" layered rock exposures is found in the 72 km-diameter (45 miles) crater, Spallanzani (58.4°S, 273.5°W). Located southeast of Hellas Planitia, the crater is named for the 18th Century Italian biologist, Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799). Picture A presents a composite of the best Viking orbiter image (VO2-504B55) of the region with 4 pictures obtained June 1999 through January 2001 by the Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC). Each MOC narrow angle image is 3 km across. Taken in the MOC's "survey mode," all four images were acquired at roughly 12 meters (39 ft) per pixel. Picture B zooms-in on the portion of the composite image that includes the 4 MOC images (the 100%-size view is 20 m (66 ft) per pixel). Other craters in the region near Spallanzani show features--at Viking Orbiter scale--that are reminiscent of the layering seen in Spallanzani. Exactly what these layers are made of and how they came to be where we see them today are mysteries, but it is possible that they are similar to the materials seen in the many craters and chasms of the equatorial latitudes on Mars.

Images Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

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