Layered Outcrops on Crater Floor
Layered Outcrops on Crater Floor
ESP_011631_1515  Science Theme: Sedimentary/Layering Processes
This image shows part of the floor of an impact crater on the northern rim of the giant Hellas Basin.

Hellas includes the lowest elevations on Mars, and may have once held lakes or seas; layered rock outcrops occur around much of the edge of the basin. At this site, a large impact crater (about 90 kilometers across) was partly filled by layered rocks. These rocks on the crater floor are now eroding and forming strange pits.

Here, the layers are mostly exposed on a steep slope which cuts across much of the image. On this slope, they crop out as rocky stripes, some continuous and others not. The material between the stripes is mostly covered by debris, but some areas of exposed rock are visible. The slope is capped by a thick, continuous layer that armors it against erosion; once this cap is gone, the lower material is removed rapidly, forming the steep slope. At the base of this slope, rocks on the floor of the pit appear bright and heavily fragmented by cracks known as joints.

The variation in rock types suggests that the rocks here were deposited by multiple processes or in different environments. Sites like this may preserve a record of conditions on early Mars.

Written by: Colin Dundas  (18 February 2009)
Acquisition date
18 January 2009

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

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Spacecraft altitude
256.9 km (159.7 miles)

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60°, with the Sun about 30° above the horizon

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193.8°, Northern Autumn

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Sub-solar azimuth:  15.4°
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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. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.