The crumbling cliffs of Mars

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Among the new images posted last week by the HiRise camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is a picture showing the layered and looping ridgelines within Galle Crater. A close-up of these ridgelines revealed the precarious nature of those crumbling cliff tops.

Below is a low resolution version of the image, with a high resolution cropped inset below that, showing a close-up of the most interesting looking area. In the inset you can see that the top of the cliff has separated away. It almost looks as if several large pieces are about to break off. You can also see that the top of the cliff to the north is made up of hanging rocks that appear to almost float in the air. They too look as if they are about to break off.

What makes this even more intriguing is that there are no boulder piles at the bottom of any cliff. All we can see on the valley floor is a pattern of polygonal fractures, possibly “due to ground ice, or regional tectonic stresses.” If large pieces of these ridge lines are breaking off periodically, as they surely appear to be doing, where has the debris gone?

Martian cliffs

crumbling cliffs


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