NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
Today's Mars Picture of the Day features two images. The top picture is a mosaic of Viking orbiter images acquired in the late 1970s. The lower image is a high resolution picture from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC). The Viking mosaic shows Ceraunius Tholus, a volcano in the Tharsis region that was first viewed in images obtained by Mariner 9 in 1972. Several channels run down the slope of the Ceraunius Tholus volcano. The deepest of those channels ends in an elliptical crater. The elliptical crater was formed by a very oblique meteor impact. Where the channel meets the floor of the elliptical crater, there is a small mound of material. Presumably, this material was deposited in the elliptical crater after running down through the channel on the volcano's northwest flank.
Near the top/center of the mound in the elliptical crater is a small, circular depression. Some have speculated for years that this depression is related to volcanism, others thought that it may be an impact crater. The MGS MOC image (lower of the two images) shows that crater. It is not the source of lava flows or any other volcanic features. Most likely, it is an old impact crater. This feature is located near 25.2°N, 97.7°W. The MOC image covers an area approximately 3 km (1.9 mi) wide and is illuminated by sunlight from the lower left.
Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, California. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, California and Denver, Colorado.