High-resolution photos taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show lava coils on the Martian surface in a region of valleys near the Red Planet’s equator.
The recently found patterns were first discovered by graduate student Andrew Ryan of Arizona State University who studied possible interactions of lava flows and floods of water in the Elysium volcanic province of Mars.
"I was interested in Martian outflow channels and was particularly intrigued by Athabasca Valles and Cerberus Palus, both part of Elysium," said Ryan.
"My initial goal was to model the nighttime infrared temperatures of the plates. Then I became fascinated by the terrain lying between the plates and the high-centered polygonal patterns found there,” he added.
The researcher examined about 100 HiRISE images of the area taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The spirals discovered in those images and polygonal fractures are similar to features found in the more fluid lava flows on Earth, like those in Hawaii, clarified the deputy project scientist for the Mars Space Laboratory Ashwin R. Vasavada.
"The coils become noticeable in the full-resolution HiRISE image only when you really zoom in,” Ryan emphasized.
The largest lava coil on Mars is 30 meters (100 feet) wide, much bigger than any known lava coils on Earth, Rayan explained.