Protonilus Mensae Glaciation
Protonilus Mensae Glaciation
ESP_068044_2240  Science Theme: Glacial/Periglacial Processes
During periods in Mars’ history when the planet had greater axial tilt, shifts in atmospheric circulation may have favored the extensive accumulation of snow in some locations. Protonilus Mensae is just such a site of extensive glaciation.

We can see a flow of material through the valleys between a complex of small mesas. Streamlines and flow fronts appear as subtle ridges. Some ridges appear perpendicular to the mesas indicating flow direction. Others appear concentric to the mesas and parallel to the valleys, where debris and now-underlying ice bunched up and moved down valley.

Deflation of the ice has led to a rich collection of small-scale features. Polygonal patterns of fractures and fissures may be related to a combination of thermal contraction cycles and overall subsidence of the surface. Larger fractures may be glacial crevasses, caused by differential flow rates in the underlying ice. Other more complex patterns of swirled pits and hummocks may result from the continual loss of unstable ice in the present-day dry climate.

Written by: Mike Mellon (narration: Tre Gibbs)  (15 April 2021)
Acquisition date
31 January 2021

Local Mars time

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Longitude (East)

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297.9 km (185.2 miles)

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30.0 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~90 cm across are resolved

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57°, with the Sun about 33° above the horizon

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356.5°, Northern Winter

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Sub-solar azimuth:  324.9°
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