Photo PIA19803

Photo: This south-facing panorama combining images from the Curiosity rover's two Mastcam cameras shows various geologic textures on Mount Sharp. Three years after landing on Mars, the mission is studying this layered mountain for evidence of changes in Martian environmental conditions, from an ancient time when conditions were favorable for microbial life to the much drier presence. Ripples of gravel and sand fill the foreground, typical of the terrain Curiosity traversed to reach Mount Sharp from its landing site. The midfield outcroppings are of two types: smooth, dust-covered bedrock that forms the base of the mountain and sandstone ridges that lose rock as they erode. The rounded knolls in the distance contain sulfate minerals, perhaps indicating a change in water availability during their formation. Some of the higher level overlay patterns of Mount Sharp in the background are tilted at different angles than the others, evidence of complicated relationships yet to be deciphered. The scene runs from southeast on the left to southwest on the right. The images were taken on April 10 and 11, 2015, the 952nd and 953rd sols after the rover landed on Mars on August 6, 2012. The images in the central part of the panorama are from the Mastcam's right eye camera, which is equipped with a 100 mm telephoto lens. The images used in the outer portions, including the farthest parts of the mountain, were taken with the Mastcam's left eye camera, using a wider-angle 34-millimeter lens. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Naming convention and Martian planetary nomenclature

Quick access

Naming convention for Martian features

Feature type Naming convention
Large craters Deceased scientists who have contributed to the study of Mars; writers and others who have contributed to the lore of Mars
Small craters Villages of the world with a population of less than 100,000
Large valles Name for Mars/star in various languages
Small valles Classical or modern names of rivers
Other features Nearest albedo formation on maps by Giovanni Schiaparelli or Eugene Antoniadi. When probes landed on Mars, rocks, dunes and hollows were often given informal names. Some of them quite light: features have been named after ice creams (like Cookies and Cream); cartoon characters (like Sponge Bob and Patrick) or music groups from the 1970s (like ABBA and the Bee Gees).
Déimos Authors who have written about the satellites of Mars. There are in 2013 only two named formations on Deimos: the Swift and Voltaire craters
Phobos Scientists involved in the discovery, dynamics, or properties of the satellites of Mars, or characters and places from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels

Back to top of page


List of descriptive terms used in planetary nomenclature
limited to the topographic formations present on Mars

Name (singular, plural) Simplified description
Albedo Feature A region with a marked albedo contrast to neighboring regions. (see definition)
Catena, catenae Chain of craters
Cavus, cavi Irregular depressions with steep edges, often in rows or clusters
Chaos, chaoses Chaotic area of land consisting of irregular blocks
Chasma, chasmata Deep, elongated depression with steep sides
Collis, colles Group of small hills or slight elevations
Crater, craters Circular depression a priori created by a cosmic impact. This term is implicit
Dorsum, dorsa Ride or ridge that may be sinuous, e.g. Dorsum Buckland
Fluctus, fluctūs Land covered by a lava or cryolave flow
Fossa, fossae Long, narrow, shallow depression
Labes, labēs Landslide
Labyrinthus, labyrinthi Complex network of intersecting valleys or ripples
Lacus, lacūs "Lake" or small plain. Used on the Moon and Titan. On Mars no "lacus" type, all areas named "lacus" are albedo features
Landing site Formation on or near a landing site for exploration missions
Lingula, lingulae Extension of a plateau with lobed or tongue-shaped boundaries
Macula, maculae Dark spot that can be irregular
Mensa, mensae Flat prominence with edges consisting of cliffs, i.e. a mesa
Mons, montes Mountain or group of mountains
Palus, paludes Small plain. Used on the Moon and on Mars
Patera, paterae Irregular or complex crater, with scalloped edges, usually corresponding to the caldera (see definition) of a volcano, but may also result from various endogenous and exogenous geological phenomena
Planitia, planitiae Low plain generally corresponding to an impact basin
Planum, plana Plateau or elevated plain, most often of volcanic or cryovolcanic origin
Regio, regiones Large area with differences in reflectivity or color from adjacent areas, or simply a homogeneous or remarkable geographic unit
Rupes, rupēs Linear scarp or the face of a relatively straight cliff, as opposed to scopulus
Scopulus, scopuli Lobed or irregular scarp
Serpens, serpents Traits with a sinuous tendency succeeding each other with positive height or negative height in relation to the territory of their surrounding environment
Sinus, sinūs "Bay"; small plain on Moon or Mars, e.g. Sinus Meridiani; On Titan, bay within bodies of liquid
Sulcus, sulci More or less parallel furrows or ripples
Terra, terrae Topographic unit identified with a "continent" or geologically ancient (Noachian terrain) on Mars
Tholus, tholi Small mountain or hill in the shape of a dome, generally corresponding to the cone of a stratovolcano
Unda, undae Field of dunes
Vallis, valles Valley or set of valleys, example: Valles Marineris
Vastitas, vastitates Extent devoid of any significant relief extending over an area greater than that of a possible impact basin. The only known formation of this type in the solar system is Vastitas Borealis on Mars

Back to top of page

Documentary sources, articles, databases: Wikipedia | USGS | IAU | Nasa | MSSS
All the documents presented here are linked to their owners on their respective official site. ©Ifik | Contact