Status Report

NASA Mars Odyssey THEMIS Image: The Naming of Things: Tartarus Montes

By SpaceRef Editor
August 13, 2004
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Medium image for 20040812a

Image Context:

Context image for 20040812a
Context image credit: NASA/Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) Team
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ParameterValue ParameterValue
Latitude15.4 &nbsp InstrumentVIS
Longitude172.7E (187.3W) &nbsp Resolution (m)19
Image Size (pixels)3052×1397 &nbsp Image Size (km)58×26.5

Full data on this image has now been released via the THEMIS Data Releases website.

On Earth, landforms like rivers and mountains are given names. The

names identify a specfic location and also tell the type of landform;

for example: Mount Everest, the Amazon River, the Pacific Ocean.

Landforms on other planets and large moons of our solar system are

also given names that denote the type of feature and the individual

location. It is much easier to discuss the largest volcano in

our solar system by using its name (Olympus Mons) rather than

its map coordinates (Mars, 32N latitude, 135W longitude).

There are strict rules and conventions for assigning landform

names to solar system bodies. The International Astronomical

Union (IAU) is in charge of approving or disapproving submitted

names. The online directory of all (non-Earth) planetary names

is located at The directory

contains information on feature descriptors (Mons = mountain)

and categories of names for feature types (valleys on Mars are

named for the word “mars” in different languages). The list

of descriptor terms can be found at Mythologies of different cultures are often

used in selecting names; names on Mars are primarily from

Greek/Roman mythology, while names on Callisto (a large moon of

Jupiter) are from Norse mythology.

As new data is collected for a planetary body, old names may

undergo change. Location names like Olympus are retained,

although the lat/long location may be shifted. The usual change

is in the descriptor type. Better images may show that a different

descriptor gives more accurate information about the landform

type; for example, what previously looked like a featureless

plain (planitia) in higher resolution is shown to be a huge

set of lava flows (fluctus). The THEMIS images shown here will

illustrate how some Mars names may need to be updated, while

others are still very accurate descriptors of the landforms.

Tartarus Montes

  • Mons/Montes: mountains
  • Tartarus: In Greek myth, the lowest part of Hades. Zeus imprisoned the Titans in Tartarus.
  • The small hills and ridges in this VIS image are the montes

    of the Tartarus region of Mars.

    Nomenclature Fact of the Day: Planetary nomenclature is international

    in scope; names are chosen from countries and cultures from

    all over the world, and they are evaluated by international

    groups of experts before they are approved by the IAU.

    [Source: ASU THEMIS Science Team]

    Note: this THEMIS visual image has not been radiometrically nor geometrically calibrated for this preliminary release. An empirical correction has been performed to remove instrumental effects. A linear shift has been applied in the cross-track and down-track direction to approximate spacecraft and planetary motion. Fully calibrated and geometrically projected images will be released through the Planetary Data System in accordance with Project policies at a later time.

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) was developed by Arizona State University, Tempe, in collaboration with Raytheon Santa Barbara Remote Sensing. The THEMIS investigation is led by Dr. Philip Christensen at Arizona State University. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, is the prime contractor for the Odyssey project, and developed and built the orbiter. Mission operations are conducted jointly from Lockheed Martin and from JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

    Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Arizona State University

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