Headwater Region of Warrego Valles
Headwater Region of Warrego Valles
PSP_004266_1385  Science Theme: 
One of the most well-known valley networks on Mars is Warrego Valles. Located along the southern boundary of the Thaumasia Plateau in the southern highlands, images of these valley systems are often used in textbooks or online as evidence for a more Earth-like climate on early Mars.

At least before the HiRISE era, whenever a single image illustrating "water on Mars" was needed, a Viking-era image of Warrego answered the call. Despite its fame, the origin of the Warrego valley networks has never been fully understood.

At first glance, these ancient (several billion years old) valley systems seem similar to erosional networks on Earth, but they are simpler and not as finely integrated. In addition, they are only located in one area on the plateau boundary. Valleys have not formed all along the plateau boundary as might be expected from rainfall (Gulick, 2001, Geomorphology, pgs. 241-268). Nevertheless many have argued that these features attest to an ancient warmer, wetter time of Mars' geological history.To better understand the Warrego valleys, HiRISE imaged the headwater regions of one of the tributaries.

Seen at high resolution the system appears more complex than implied by the much lower resolution Viking-era images. The valley floor—as well as the floors of nearby small craters—is covered by an enigmatic rough, angular, blocky textured material that seems to be contained in a finer-grained material. This rough textured material might also be the result of ice evaporating from the subsurface.

At any rate at HiRISE resolution, there is little sign of fluvial bedforms, like channel bars, from the original erosive event that carved the valleys. Given the age of these valleys, clues to its origin may long since have been obscured by subsequent geologic processes. Without such geologic clues we can add little more to the previous speculation about what might have carved these features originally. In this case, the high resolution images provided by HiRISE inform us that we have much more to learn about some of the best known landforms on Mars.

Written by: Virginia Gulick  (6 January 2010)

This is a stereo pair with PSP_003633_1385.
Acquisition date
24 June 2007

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
245.0 km (152.3 miles)

Original image scale range
24.9 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~75 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel and North is up

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Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
42°, with the Sun about 48° above the horizon

Solar longitude
263.9°, Northern Autumn

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North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  13.3°
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All of the images produced by HiRISE and accessible on this site are within the public domain: there are no restrictions on their usage by anyone in the public, including news or science organizations. We do ask for a credit line where possible:
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

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.