We Found a Cinder Cone!

Field Day 3, Stop 2

By: Mike DeNoon, Debra Moore, and Rob Sauer

What observations can you make from the pictures below? What interpretations can you make? Do you see any connection to Mars?

Inferno Cone


As we approached the cone-shaped landform, we observed it had steep sides on one side of the cone and a gentle slope on the other. We started the climb to the top on the face that had the gentler slope. The surface was composed of loose black and red particles. These particles were porous and glassy. The top of the cone was relatively flat with sparse vegetation that consisted of one tree and some small plants. About half of the top of the cone had no vegetation at all. The vegetation grew about one-fourth of the way down the north side of the cone. The cone appeared to be in line with some other cone-shaped landforms. There appeared to be a layer of “stuff” coming from the base of the cone spreading out to the southwest and northeast.

Inferno Cone at Craters of the Moon
3. Heading up Inferno Cone at Craters of the Moon.

The small, glassy, porous particles are volcanic cinders; this feature is a volcanic cinder cone. The elongated cone-shape appears to be the result of the action of the wind as the cinders were ejected from the volcanic vent. The steepness of the sides appears to be caused by the cinders falling back to the earth and piling up like pouring sand out of a bottle in one spot. The high and low sides of the cone are controlled by the wind. The cinders are about 2 mm to 2cm in size. We believe the top has been flattened due to wind erosion. The porous nature of the materials allows water to be trapped, which makes conditions right for plant growth. The layer of “stuff” appears to be the lava flow resulting from the eruption.

Space probe pictures show similar elongated shapes with what appears to be a lava flow coming from the base. The cones on Mars also have a steep slope on one side and gentler slopes on the other.

Volcanoes Ceraunius Tholus And Uranius Tholus
Volcanoes Ceraunius Tholus and Uranius Tholus MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-305, 18 April 2002, http://www.msss.com/mars_images/moc/news2002/ceraunius/

“Acquired in March 2002, this Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) wide angle view shows the martian volcanoes, Ceraunius Tholus (lower) and Uranius Tholus (upper). The presence of impact craters on these volcanoes, particularly on Uranius Tholus; indicates that they are quite ancient and are not active today. The light-toned area on the southeastern face (toward lower right) of Ceraunius Tholus is a remnant of a once more extensive deposit of dust from the global dust storm events that occurred in 2001. The crater at the summit of Ceraunius Tholus is about 25 km (15.5 mi) across. Sunlight illuminates the scene from the lower left.”