Small Valleys and Colorful Bedrock in Terra Cimmeria
Small Valleys and Colorful Bedrock in Terra Cimmeria
ESP_012853_1480  Science Theme: Fluvial Processes
This image shows a network of small valleys in the Terra Cimmeria region of the Martian southern highlands. This location is approximately 1000 kilometers (600 miles) south of Gusev Crater, the landing site of the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit.

The valleys in this image are carved into light-toned bedrock exhibiting a range of colors, which likely reflect a range of mineralogical compositions. The bedrock is pervasively fractured, and some of the fractures appear to be filled with material of a different color, possibly composed of minerals that crystallized or were cemented together when fluids (perhaps water) circulated through the fractures.

On the right side of the cutout is a valley filled with dark material and a central, bright ridge. If the valley was carved by liquid water, then this ridge may mark a former stream channel where coarse-grained sediment was deposited, which has survived erosion more effectively than the finer-grained sediment in the valley outside the channel.

Similar “inverted channel” deposits are visible elsewhere on Mars, and some examples in the southern highlands have been inferred to contain chloride salts (similar to table salt). The color and texture of the possible inverted channels in this image are similar to those inferred to contain chlorides, which may have been deposited when salty water evaporated.

Considered together, the features in this image attest to a history of water-related activity at this location on Mars.

Written by: James Wray  (27 May 2009)

This is a stereo pair with ESP_013354_1480.
Acquisition date
24 April 2009

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
254.5 km (158.1 miles)

Original image scale range
51.2 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~154 cm across are resolved

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50 cm/pixel and North is up

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Solar incidence angle
45°, with the Sun about 45° above the horizon

Solar longitude
252.7°, Northern Autumn

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Sub-solar azimuth:  2.6°
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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.