The European Space Agency released new images of a strange feature on Mars called Ismenia Patera. Scientists weren't able to figure out how this feature on the Martian landscape came to be.
Ismenia Patera stretches out for about 47 miles on Mars.
Ismenia Patera is located in the Arabia Terra region of Mars, which is on the planet's northern hemisphere. A patera is a broad, shallow, bowl-shaped feature on a planet's surface. Scientists believe that this is one of the oldest geological features on the surface of Mars. Some of the segments of the feature date back almost 4 billion years.
Despite so much visual information regarding Ismenia Patera, scientists haven't been able to determine its origin. Some of the theories regarding its creation include a meteorite impact or a supervolcano that released so much magma that it caused the structure to collapse and create Ismenia Patera.
Regarding the features, a topographic map shows that inside Ismenia Patera, there are various peaks, valleys, and dips. The impact theory suggests that if it is a crater, then those inner features were created by the ice and sediment that seeped into the crater when it was created. If the supervolcano theory is true, then those structures were created by the collapse of the volcano.
The ESA launched the Mars Express mission as an effort to get a better sense of the Red Planet. Its orbiter continues to shed light on some of the mysteries of Mars and was responsible for taking the photographs of Ismenia Patera.
Mars Express was designed to study as much of Mars as possible. It was sent to get a better understanding of the Martian atmosphere and climate, along with collecting knowledge about the surface of the planet by gathering data on the mineralogy and geology.
One of the biggest discoveries by the probe was the hydrated minerals, which confirmed that Mars has once been a wetter planet than today. These minerals would only form in the presence of liquid water.
It was also able to discover the subsurface layers of water ice on the planet using radar sounder. Using a different instrument, Mars Express also detected the presence of enough water ice in the polar caps that is able to create a global ocean with a depth of 11 meters. Crystals were found on Mars and were thought to be proof of life, but the discovery just proved that there was once water on the planet.
Mars Express found clouds made of water ice on the planet. It was able to detect the clouds at an altitude of around 50 miles (80 kilometers). During this time Mars Express discovered a layer of clouds at a height of about 62 miles (100 kilometers). That would make those clouds the highest observed above any planetary surface.