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Clouds and Chasmata

Posted By Bill Dunford

23-02-2015 10:03 CST

Topics: pretty pictures, amateur image processing, Mars Express, Mars

We have some new Martian landscapes to explore.

This month the European Space Agency added hundreds of images to the archive of data sent home by the Mars Express orbiter. The new material includes observations made by the High Resolution Stereo Camera through June of 2014. Some of these pictures were taken during Mars Express orbits numbered 13,000 and beyond--that represents a lot of work the Mars Express team has accomplished since their robotic spacecraft arrived at the planet in 2003. Over the years their efforts have yielded some of the most important and beautiful surveys of the Martian deserts we have.

This latest batch is a worthy addition. I've processed two striking examples. The first includes several chasmata, Mars' famously dramatic canyons, including Juventae Chasma, where water was released in catastrophic floods to form the channels of Maja Valles. The same picture even contains a section of Valles Marineris, Coprates Chasma, filled with morning mist. 


ESA / DLR / FU Berlin / Bill Dunford

The Mars Express orbiter captured this striking view of rugged Martian landscapes extending from a mist-filled Coprates Chasma in the south, to Juventae Chasma and the outflow channels of Maja Valles in the north. Juventae Chasma, the box canyon near the center of the image, is about 100 km wide.

Dry as it is today, Mars still wrings beauty out of what little water remains. Here are the spiraling, sculpted ices of the north polar cap, and clouds circling the pole, from the plains of Vastitas Borealis in the north, all the way down to Tantalus Fossae and Tempe Terra in the south.

Clouds Over the North

ESA / DLR / FU Berlin / Bill Dunford

Clouds Over the North
The north polar cap of Mars, with water ice clouds sweeping over the plains of Vastitas Borealis. The ice cap spans roughly 1000 kilometers. Observed by the Mars Express orbiter in May 2014.

For me at least, wandering Mars never gets old, and Mars never seems to exhaust its supply of heartbreaking beauty.

See other posts from February 2015


Read more blog entries about: pretty pictures, amateur image processing, Mars Express, Mars


Barnacle Bill: 02/23/2015 08:09 CST

Based on the Acrecibo radar image of the equatorial region of Mars. See link here: It appears that like Echus Chasma (where the head source of Kasei Valles originated from its mighty 3 km high cliffs), that Juventae Chasma may not release water, but lava instead which when running across buried ice in the plains of Chryse, melted the underground ice and carved Kasei and Maja Valles. The issue is hydrological underwater pressure fed release of water of such enormous scale and magnitude has not been proven to be feasible or possible, yet the radar image here clearly shows the radar bright lava flows originated from Echus, and flowed along Kasei Valles, and this bright lava did not spill from the Tharsis volcanoes and channelled into the highground head of Echus Chasma. The extent of lava, ice and water interactions on Mars in carving the huge run-off channels on Mars needs to be re-examined, as water alone doesn't seem to be capable of doing this on its own as catastrophic flooding.

Bob Ware: 03/01/2015 01:24 CST

Those are beautiful images you selected Bill. They also allude to some intriguing science. BB - Thanks for the alternate line of science on the images. That point is very probable but Mars could have held more water in it's past and maybe "surface seepage" IE: shallow and steady multiple centuries of stream flow on top of an active lava tube back then may also be a small part of the answer. Or just simply in this area, lava only. Either way ground exploration is required. In other areas MSL is showing signs of pooled neutral water. MER-B (Opportunity) is showing in different areas both types of pooled water possibilities though by terrain ratios, mostly non-neutral if I remember the public statements correctly. More exploration needs to be done and at the ground level too.

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