Astronomy:Aeolis Mensae

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Aeolis Mensae
Aeolis Mensae Yardangs.JPG
Aeolis Mensae yardangs, as seen by HiRISE. Scale bar is 500 meters long. Click on image for better view of yardangs.
CoordinatesCoordinates: 2°54′S 219°36′W / 2.9°S 219.6°W / -2.9; -219.6
Aeolis Mensae

Aeolis Mensae is a tableland feature in the northwest Aeolis quadrangle of Mars. Its location is centered at 2.9° south latitude and 219.6° west longitude, in the transition zone between the martian highlands and lowlands.[1] It is 820 kilometres (510 mi) long and was named after a classical albedo feature name.[2]

To Aeolis Mensae's south and west is Gale Crater, with the site of Curiosity's landing at Aeolis Pallus being between it and Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons). Aeolis Planum lies to the north and east of Aeolis Mensae,[3] and to its west is Robert Sharp Crater, in the Tyrrhenum quadrangle.[4] Aeolis Mensae lies on the boundary between Elysium Planitia (north) and Terra Cimmeria (south). The next geological figure along the transition zone, to Aeolis Mensae's northwest, is Nepenthes Menthae, in the Amenthes quadrangle.[5]

Observation History

It was named in 1976,[6] and examined in detail by Mars Express's HRSC camera in 2007.[1] The Curiosity rover landed in the neighboring Gale Crater in 2012,[7] and since then the area has received limited but continued attention from both ESA's HRSC and NASA's HiRISE cameras in orbit.[8] In 2019, it was determined that Curiosity had detected methane from this region.[9]

Relevance in the search for life on Mars

A study from 2019 showed that the area of Aeolis Mensae is the most likely source of methane which was previously detected by Curiosity.[9] While martian methane levels are known to fluctuate seasonally, the spike of methane observed by Curiosity cannot be explained by this. The exact cause of the spike is unknown; possible hypotheses suggest either a geological or biological origin.[10]

Aeolis Mensae is thought to have possessed an aquifer which was, along with the Elysium Planitia basin, a source of water for a lake in Gale Crater during the Amazonian period of Mars' development.[11]

Formation theories

The valleys of Aeolis Mensae resemble glacial grooves on Earth, however tectonic activity is thought to be a better explanation for their formation.[1] Lava flows are also expected to explain some of the features in the region.[3] The Aeolis quadrangle is known for having wind-related features - the yardangs are an example of this. Water erosion has also played a role in the formation of features in the region.[12] The fretted terrain is thought to have formed during the late Noachian period of Mars' development, via wind erosion.[13]

Aeolis Mensae contains inverted reliefs, in which a stream bed may be a raised feature, instead of a valley. The inversion may be caused by the deposition of large rocks or by cementation. In either case erosion lowered the surrounding land, but left the old channel as a raised ridge because the stream bed is more resistant to erosion. An image taken by HiRISE shows a ridge that may be old channels that have become inverted.[14]


Images by NASA and ESA

<gallery widths="180" heights="180"> File:Aeolis Mensae ESA214368.jpg|High resolution; taken by Mars Express’ High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). File:Aeolis Mensae.jpg|The crater in the south-west (bottom-left) is Gale Crater, the site of Curiosity's landing.  Aeolis Mensae is directly to the east (right). File:Aeolis Mensae South, perspective view ESA234308.jpg|An image of the south of Aeolis Mensae, taken by HRSC File:Aeolis Mensae North, perspective view ESA237339.jpg|An image of the north of Aeolis Mensae, by HRSC File:Aeolis Mensae Region of Mars (24747477163).jpg|The large block in this image was separated from the nearby elevated areas by tectonic activity in Mars' past.[15] File:Canyons of Aeolis Mensae.jpg|Canyons of Aeolis Mensae.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Tectonic signatures at Aeolis Mensae" (in en). 
  2. "Planetary Names: Welcome". 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Geologic Map of the Aeolis Quadrangle". 2019-10-17. 
  4. "Robert Sharp Feature". 2012-05-16. 
  5. "Nepenthes Mensae Feature". 2006-10-01. 
  6. Mensae "Google maps, Mars - Aeolis Mensae". Mensae. 
  7. "Nasa's Curiosity rover lifts its navigation cameras" (in en-GB). BBC News. 2012-08-08. 
  8. "Aeolis Mensae | Red Planet Report" (in en-US). 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Amoroso, Marilena; Merritt, Donald; Parra, Julia Marín-Yaseli de la; Cardesín-Moinelo, Alejandro; Aoki, Shohei; Wolkenberg, Paulina; Formisano, Vittorio; Oehler, Dorothy et al. (1 April 2019). "Independent confirmation of a methane spike on Mars and a source region east of Gale Crater" (in en). Nature Geoscience 12 (5): 326–332. doi:10.1038/s41561-019-0331-9. ISSN 1752-0908. Bibcode2019NatGe..12..326G. 
  10. Greicius, Tony (2019-06-23). "Curiosity's Mars Methane Mystery Continues". 
  11. Cabrol, Nathalie A.; Grin, Edmond A.; Newsom, Horton E.; Landheim, Ragnhild; McKay, Christopher P. (1999-06-01). "Hydrogeologic Evolution of Gale Crater and Its Relevance to the Exobiological Exploration of Mars" (in en). Icarus 139 (2): 235–245. doi:10.1006/icar.1999.6099. ISSN 0019-1035. 
  12. "Aeolis Mensae" (in en). 
  13. Irwin, Rossman P.; Watters, Thomas R.; Howard, Alan D.; Zimbelman, James R. (2004). "Sedimentary resurfacing and fretted terrain development along the crustal dichotomy boundary, Aeolis Mensae, Mars" (in en). Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 109 (E9). doi:10.1029/2004JE002248. ISSN 2156-2202. 
  14. "HiRISE | Sinuous Ridges Near Aeolis Mensae". 2007-01-31. 
  15. "Aeolis Mensae" (in en).