Colorful Sulfates in Aureum Chaos
Colorful Sulfates in Aureum Chaos
PSP_007217_1755  Science Theme: Composition and Photometry
This false-color RGB image shows many layers, or strata, of light-toned rock in the Aureum Chaos region of Mars.

Data from the CRISM instrument have shown that many of these light-toned strata contain sulfate salts and hematite. These minerals were also found in rocks in Meridiani Planum by the Opportunity rover. Both CRISM and the rover have detected sulfate salts with magnesium, calcium, and iron.

It is possible that the color variations visible in this image (whitish to tan to orange-red tones) are a result of variations in the types of sulfates and other minerals present in these rocks. The low areas between these mesas and rock outcrops are covered by sand, which appears blue in this image. Many sand dunes on Mars contain a mineral called pyroxene, which absorbs and scatters light in such a way that it often appears blue in these false color images. Pyroxene is a common mineral found in basalt, and it is likely that dunes such as these are composed of small grains of weathered, broken-up basalt.

The spatial relationships between the anhydrous (water-free) minerals found in the dunes, as well as the hydrous (water bearing) minerals in the rock, help us to understand when and how water interacted with the surface of Mars in the past.

Written by: Ralph Milliken  (3 March 2008)
Acquisition date
09 February 2008

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
268.3 km (166.8 miles)

Original image scale range
27.0 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~81 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel and North is up

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Emission angle

Phase angle

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

Solar longitude
29.7°, Northern Spring

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North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  27.5°
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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.