Seasonal Flows in Valles Marineris
Seasonal Flows in Valles Marineris
ESP_042228_1670  Science Theme: Mass Wasting Processes
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter launched 10 years ago! One of the many discoveries from this mission is that there are seasonal flows on some steep slopes, that have a set of characteristics consistent with shallow seeps of salty water. They are called recurring slope lineae because they fade and disappear during cold seasons and reappear in warm seasons, repeating this pattern every Martian year.

The flows in this image, in a part of Coprates Chasma, are on a north-facing slope so they are active now, in northern spring. The flows emanate from the relatively bright bedrock and flow onto sandy fans, where they are remarkably straight, following linear channels. Valles Marineris contains more of these flows than everywhere else on Mars combined, and they are always active although on changing slope aspects with season. Future human explorers (and settlers?) will need water to drink, grow food, produce oxygen to breathe, and to produce rocket fuel. Bringing all of that water from Earth would be extremely expensive, so using water on Mars is essential.

Although there is plenty of water ice at high latitudes, surviving the cold winters would be difficult. An equatorial source of water would be preferable, so Valles Marineris may be the best destination. However, the chemistry of this water must be understood before betting any lives on it.

Written by: Alfred McEwen  (10 August 2015)
Acquisition date
30 July 2015

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
260.7 km (162.0 miles)

Original image scale range
55.2 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~166 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
50 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
46°, with the Sun about 44° above the horizon

Solar longitude
20.5°, Northern Spring

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  33.4°
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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.