This rubber ducky is found near a large volcano on the Tharsis volcanic plateau on Mars. Volcanos likely formed this feature.  It could be an ancient vent where lava 'bubbled up' to the surface.  Instead of soft and rubbery, this duck is made of stronger stuff.  Wind erosion wore away the softer rock surrounding this shape, leaving a "lava-ly" duck behind!

April 09, 2014

What is this strange-looking feature? HiRISE scientists first noticed it in images from the Context Camera and acquired this picture to investigate more closely.

The feature indeed does look like a heart. It is located south of Ascraeus Mons, which is a large volcano within the Tharsis volcanic plateau, so it is extremely likely that this feature was formed by a volcanic process. The feature rises above the surrounding terrain and we can see concentric ridges on its top. Perhaps this feature is an ancient vent structure (an opening in the ground from which volcanic lava emerges) that has been more resistant to erosion than the surrounding area, so that it resembles "inverted" terrains.

Topographic inversion or inverted terrain often occurs when low areas of a landscape become filled with lava or sediments that harden into materials which are more resistant to erosion than the materials that surround them. Differential erosion then removes the less resistant surrounding material, leaving behind the younger resistant material which may then appear as a ridge where previously there was a valley, or in our case, a butte, where there was once a pit or depression.


NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona


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