Exploratour - The Surface of Mars

A representation of the Tharsis Ridge, showing the altitude of the volcanoes compared to the surrounding areas. The elevated southern hemisphere is also shown. From Mars Global Surveyor.
Click on image for full size
NASA/JPL

Continents on Mars

When you first look at a global picture of Mars, the two things which stand out the most are the two regions which are colored red and yellow in the picture to the left. They seem elevated above the rest of the crust. The largest red-and-yellow region covers the lower half of the planet. This region is called the Highlands. The rest of the surface is called Lowlands. The highlands seem like a continent on Earth.

The other feature is a smaller, island-shaped feature, known as the Tharsis Ridge. It is also as large as a small continent on Earth, or perhaps a large, volcanic island. These two features may be thought of as the "continents of Mars". (For comparison, take a look at the picture of the surface of the Earth seen without all the ocean waters on top).

Near the middle of the highlands near the south pole, is a very deep area called the Hellas Basin (colored blue on this map). This is one of the deepest areas in the solar sytem.

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