Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now  arrow.png

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

    Please leave this field empty
The Bruce Murray Space Image Library

Highlands near Tagus Valles - ancient evidence for water in a Martian desert

Filed under pretty pictures, Mars Express, Mars

Go Back

Highlands near Tagus Valles - ancient evidence for water in a Martian desert Impact cratering, water erosion, and volcanic ashfall have all shaped this ancient region of Mars' southern highlands. The unnamed 34-kilometer crater in the upper left of the image contains both mesas and yardangs in its center, erosional remnants of what was once a sedimentary fill. Eroded valleys snake across the intercrater plains, some of them crossing the ghostly outlines of older craters. Dark ash blankets the upper left region of the photo.

ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

Here is further information about the photo from ESA. More information and versions of the image, including topographic, oblique views, and 3D anaglyph, are available at the same page.

Craters once brim-full with sediments and water have long since drained dry, but traces of their former lives as muddy lakes cling on in the martian desert.

The 34 km-wide crater in the top left of the main images perhaps draws most attention with its chaotic interior. Here, broad flat-topped blocks called mesas can be found alongside smaller parallel wind-blown features known as yardangs.

Both mesas and yardangs were carved from sediments that originally filled the crater, deposited there during a flood event that covered the entire scene. Over time, the weakest sediments were eroded away, leaving the haphazard pattern of stronger blocks behind.

Further evidence of this crater’s watery past can be seen in the top right of the crater in the shape of a small, winding river channel.

Clues also hang onto the ghostly outline of an ancient crater some 20 km to the east (below in the main images). While the crater has all but been erased from the geological record, a long meandering channel clearly remains, and flows towards the crater in the centre of the scene....

But it’s not just water that has played a role in this region; volcanic eruptions have also had their say. A dark layer of fine-grained ash covers the top left corner of the main image that may have been deposited from the Elysium volcanic province to the northeast. Over time, the ash was redistributed by wind, and buried deposits exposed in localised areas by erosion.

This region is one of many that exposes evidence of the Red Planet’s active past, and shows that the marks of water are engraved in even the most unlikely ancient crater-strewn fields.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Contact us to request publication permission from the copyright holder. Original image data dated on or about January 15, 2013

 

Other Related Images

Comments:

Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.

Space in Images

Pretty pictures and
awe-inspiring science.

See More

Join the New Millennium Committee

Let’s invent the future together!

Become a Member

Connect With Us

Facebook! Twitter! Google+ and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!