Gullies on the Wall of an Unnamed Crater in Utopia Planitia
Gullies on the Wall of an Unnamed Crater in Utopia Planitia
ESP_041866_2290  Science Theme: Fluvial Processes
This enhanced-color image of gullies in the northern wall of an unnamed crater in Utopia Planitia covers an area of approximately 750 by 1100 meters. The banked, sinuous shape of the gully channels suggest that water was involved in their formation. The source of this water however is a subject of debate. Hypotheses include melting of snow or near-surface ground ice.

Other features also suggest the past (and possibly present) presence of snow or ground ice in this region. For example, the “mantle” deposit on the crater wall displays polygonal fractures. Polygons on Earth are associated with periglacial activity. This refers to processes that occur from the presence of ground ice, which interacts with surface and subsurface materials, as well as the Martian atmosphere as a function of climate and seasons). The mantle itself may be the remains of a dusty snowpack deposited in Mars’ recent past.

At the base of the mantle are fractures associated with the slumping of these deposits under their own weight and Martian gravity. The largest gullies cut into these mantling deposits, and in some places obscure the underlying fractures at the base of the crater wall. This indicates that the largest gullies are younger than both the mantle and the fractures.

Written by: Livio Tornabene, Tanya Harrison, Elizabeth Silber, and Kayle Hansen (narration: Tre Gibbs)  (29 July 2015)
Acquisition date
02 July 2015

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
302.8 km (188.2 miles)

Original image scale range
60.6 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~182 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
50 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
54°, with the Sun about 36° above the horizon

Solar longitude
7.0°, Northern Spring

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  320.0°
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Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
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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.