NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Swirls of Rock in Candor Chasma
The floor here is approximately 4 kilometers below the canyon rim. The layers are made of sand- and dust-sized particles that were transported here by either wind or water. This canyon may have been filled to its rim by these sedimentary layers, subsequently eroded away, most likely by the wind. The elongate hills may represent areas of rock that are stronger due to differences in the size of the sedimentary particles, chemical alteration, or both.
One of the most eye-catching aspects of this scene are the intricate swirls that these layers form. Sedimentary rock generally accumulates in horizontal layers. These layers, however, have been folded into the patterns that we see today. Folding of the layers that are exposed here may have occurred due to the weight of overlying sediments. The anaglyph image, providing a three-dimensional perspective, dramatically reveals how the layered terrain has been folded in many directions and angles.
Understanding the geologic history of this region may provide clues into the history of water on Mars, because these layers may have accumulated in shallow lakes and may have undergone chemical reactions with this water. The presence of certain kinds of chemical reactions between water and rock can release energy that could have sustained habitable oases in these areas.