An avalanche pile on Mars

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Avalanche pile on Mars

Cool image time! The Mars Odyssey science team has released this very interesting image, cropped on the right, of an avalanche debris pile formed when the large section of cliff on the left broke off and collapsed into the valley below. The valley is called Tiu Valles and is located close to Mars’ equator.

The wide spread of the debris is an indication of several things. For one, it illustrates the light Martian gravity, which allowed the debris to flow much farther than it would have on Earth.

For another, the spread of the debris pile suggests to me that the material that fell was very crumbly. It might have been able to hold together as a cliff for a long time, but when it collapsed the material broke apart almost like sand. Think of a sand castle you might have built as a kid on the beach. With a little moisture you can pack the sand to form solid shapes, but if your shape breaks apart the sand falls not as large blocks but as crumbly soft and loose sand. That is what appears to have happened here.

There is also the suggestion to me that water might have been involved somehow in this collapse. I am not a geologist so this speculation on my part is very unreliable. However, the shape of the debris pile suggests a liquid flow. The flow itself wasn’t liquid, but liquid might have somehow been involved in causing this geological event. We would need a geologist however to clarify these guesses on my part.


  • mivenho

    Perhaps it is the result of a meteor impact on the ridge.

  • wodun

    Its kind of weird because that depression does and doesn’t look like an impact crater. It almost looks like a sinkhole.

  • PeterF

    The circular area looks just like an upslope snowfield after an avalanche. I wonder what created the canyon in the first place?

    What is the angle off of horizontal of the original field? Apparently it was close to the Martian gravity angle of repose.
    Windblown sand is round rather than faceted. Thats why they had to import the sand used in the concrete to build the Aswan High Dam on the Nile. Desert sand particles are like little marbles and cement made with it is very weak.

    If the field was create by a million years of fine windblown dust being deposited on slope, this entire canyon is a dangerous place to explore and should be avoided.

    Perhaps dry, round sand particles are the reason for the flows that we all suspected contained water. The darker coloration could be an effect of difference in weathering for under layers of sand that aren’t exposed to sunlight

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