Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Mars Exploration News  




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



Mars Orbiter Examines Lace And Lizard Skin Terrain

This is a perspective view of a scene within Mars' Candor Chasma based on stereo imaging by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It shows how the surface would appear to a person standing on top of one of the many hills in the region and facing southeast. The hills in the foreground are several tens of meters to about 100 meters (tens of yards to about 100 yards) wide and several tens of meters or yards tall. The light-toned layers of rock likely consist of material laid down by the wind or under water.

The dark-toned material is a layer of windblown sand on the surface. The orientations of these layers were measured in three dimensions in order to understand the region's geologic history. The particular patterns in which these rocks are oriented to the surrounding Candor Chasma are most consistent with the idea that the layers formed as basin-filling sediment, analogous to the sedimentary rocks of the Paradox Basin in southeastern Utah. This implies that these sediments are younger than the formation of the chasm, providing important constraints on the maximum age of groundwater (about 3.7 billion years) within the region. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

by Staff Writers
San Francisco CA (SPX) Dec 13, 2007
Scrutiny by NASA's newest Mars orbiter is helping scientists learn the stories of some of the weirdest landscapes on Mars, as well as more familiar-looking parts of the Red Planet.

One type of landscape near Mars' south pole is called "cryptic terrain" because it once defied explanation, but new observations bolster and refine recent interpretations of how springtime outbursts of carbon-dioxide gas there sculpt intricate patterns and paint seasonal splotches.

"A lot of Mars looks like Utah, but this is an area that looks nothing like Planet Earth," said Candice Hansen of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., deputy principal investigator for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

In addition to radially branching patterns called "spiders," which had been detected by an earlier Mars orbiter, other intriguing ground textures in the area appear in the new images. "In some places, the channels form patterns more like lace. In others, the texture is reminiscent of lizard skin," Hansen said.

Results from all six instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which reached Mars last year, are described in dozens of presentations this week by planetary scientists in San Francisco at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

By taking stereo pictures of a target area from slightly different angles during different orbits, HiRISE can show the surface in three dimensions. Channels found to widen as they run uphill in the cryptic terrain region testify that the channels are cut by a gas, not a liquid.

Earlier evidence for jets of gas active in the region came from fan-shaped blotches appearing seasonally, which scientists interpret as material fallen to the surface downwind of vents where the gas escapes. Some of the fans are dark, others bright. "The dark fans are probably dust, but the exact composition of the brighter fans had remained unknown until now," said Tim Titus of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Team, Flagstaff, Ariz.

Observations by the new orbiter's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars suggest that the bright fans are composed of carbon-dioxide frost. Here's the story researchers now propose: Spring warms the ground under a winter-formed coating of carbon dioxide ice.

Thawing at the base of the coating generates carbon-dioxide gas, which carves channels as it pushes its way under the ice to a weak spot where it bursts free. The jet of escaping gas carries dust aloft and also cools so fast from expanding rapidly that a fraction of the carbon dioxide refreezes and falls back to the surface as frost.

The processes creating the cryptic terrain are current events on Mars. Repeated HiRISE observations of the same target area show the downwind fans can form and grow perceptibly in less than five days.

Other new findings from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal processes of Martian environments long ago. A team including Chris Okubo of the University of Arizona, Tucson, used stereo HiRISE images to examine layered deposits inside Mars' Candor Chasma, part of Valles Marineris, the largest canyon system in the solar system.

"The high-resolution structural map allowed us to interpret the geological history of the area," Okubo said. "The layers are tilted in a way that tells us they are younger than the canyon." Spectrometer studies of the composition of these deposits had indicated water played a role in their formation, but their age relative to the formation of the canyon had been uncertain. The new findings suggest water was present after the canyon formed.

Community
Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Related Links
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more



Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


Building Blocks Of Life Formed On Mars
Washington DC (SPX) Dec 12, 2007
Organic compounds contain carbon and hydrogen and form the building blocks of all life on Earth. By analyzing organic material and minerals in the Martian meteorite Allan Hills 84001, scientists at the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory have shown for the first time that building blocks of life formed on Mars early in its history. Previously, scientists have thought that organic material in ALH 84001 was brought to Mars by meteorite impacts or more speculatively originated from ancient Martian microbes.









  • Nuclear Power In Space - Part 2
  • Outside View: Nuclear future in space
  • Nuclear Power In Space
  • Could NASA Get To Pluto Faster? Space Expert Says Yes - By Thinking Nuclear

  • Lighting Up The Lunar Night With Fuel Cells
  • New NASA Mission To Reveal Moon's Internal Structure And Evolution
  • Earth's Magnetic Field Could Help Protect Astronauts Working On The Moon
  • NASA on target for return to the moon by 2020: officials

  • Brain Stem Cells Sensitive To Space Radiation
  • Lockheed Martin Team Opens Development Laboratory For Orion And Constellation
  • Kennedy's Desert RATS
  • Voyager 2 Proves Solar System Is Squashed

  • The PI's Perspective: Autumn 2007: Onward to the Kuiper Belt
  • Data For The Next Generations
  • Goddard Instrument Makes Cover Of Science
  • Checking Out New Horizons

  • Rethinking Jupiter
  • Jovian Magnetosphere Circulates Magnetic Field Very Differently From Earth
  • New Horizons' SWAP instrument Reveals Complex Structure, Diverse Plasma Populations In Jupiter's Magnetotail
  • Polar lightning - not just an earthly phenomenon: study

  • The Restless Atmosphere Of Venus
  • The Unexpected Temperature Profile Of Venus's Atmosphere
  • The Venusian Climate And Its Evolution
  • Caught In The Wind From The Sun

  • Saturn Rings May Be Old Timers
  • Images Of Saturn's Small Moons Tell The Story Of Their Origins
  • Small Moons Of Saturn Reveal The Story Of Their Origins In New Images
  • Organic Building Blocks Discovered In Titan's Atmosphere

  • Russia And France Developing New Satellite Platform
  • Light Is Shed On New Fibre's Potential To Change Technology
  • Major Physics Breakthrough In Understanding Supersolidity
  • MIT Creates New Oil-Repelling Material

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2007 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement