New Mars Orbiter Reveals Details of Canyon System and 'Spiders'
New images reveal that layered deposits inside Mars' Candor Chasma, part of the Valles Marineris, are younger than the canyon itself. The Candor Chasma deposits contain abundant chemical evidence of water-driven processes, and earlier studies had left ambiguity about whether the deposits formed within the near-equatorial canyons, the largest such network in our solar system, or were deposited after the canyon opened.
Stereo, high-resolution imagery from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter allows researchers to interpret the geological history of the site by resolving the meter scale topography and other key details of folds and faults within these layers. Elsewhere, the same camera and the orbiter's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars aid in the understanding of so-called "cryptic terrain" near Mars's permanent southern polar cap. This unearthly landscape with landforms reminiscent of spiders, lace work and lizard skin textures bears evidence of gas jets bursting upward from seasonal vents and depositing bright and dark fans downwind from the vents. New spectrometer observations suggest the bright fans are carbon dioxide frost that has fallen back to the surface from the jets.
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