Sandstone Cliffs and Hematite Lag Deposits of Ophir Mensa
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Sandstone Cliffs and Hematite Lag Deposits of Ophir Mensa
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This target was one of the first close HiRISE views of the enigmatic Valles Marineris interior layered deposits. These light-toned sedimentary deposits are of interest to scientists because they are partially composed of minerals like hematite that likely formed in the presence of liquid water.

The lighter-tone linear units to the north are called "yardangs" and formed when downslope winds carved the fragile sandstone into channels. Over time, wind and gravity conspire to erode material downslope and onto the canyon floor. The darker-toned sandy deposits at the cliff base contain high concentrations of hematite (along with basaltic or volcanic sand) known from infrared orbital measurements.

HiRISE resolution can clearly show outcrops mass wasting finer materials out, and darker layers that are likely hematite-bearing units. This is an excellent candidate for what's called a "hematite lag deposit," where more resistant iron-rich hematite concretions have weathered out of the brittle mesa driven by gravity and wind, similar to that observed at the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity landing site.

Written by: Matthew Chojnacki (audio by Tre Gibbs)   (13 November 2013)

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Acquisition date:15 January 2007 Local Mars time: 3:40 PM
Latitude (centered):-4.479° Longitude (East):287.251°
Range to target site:266.0 km (166.3 miles)Original image scale range:from 26.6 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) to 53.2 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning)
Map projected scale:25 cm/pixel and North is upMap projection:Equirectangular
Emission angle:0.0° Phase angle:56.0°
Solar incidence angle:56°, with the Sun about 34° above the horizon Solar longitude:167.1°, Northern Summer
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North azimuth:97° Sub-solar azimuth:15.6°
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North azimuth:270°Sub solar azimuth:189.6°

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For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona. The image data were processed using the U.S. Geological Survey’s ISIS3 software.