Click for full image.
Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on March 4, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what MRO’s science team labeled a “Landform in Source Region of Harmakhis Vallis.”
They are being very correct and careful with that label. The landform here is quite clearly reminiscent of a glacier, but because they don’t yet have confirmation of its watery nature, as good scientists they can’t call it that.
I however am a mere journalist, so I am free to speculate more wildly. Sure looks like glaciers to me, the ice flowing downhill from the left to the right and flowing around that central mound.
The overview map below gives a wider context, but also makes the behavior of the glaciers here far more puzzling.
Click for full image.
The white rectangle marks the location of today’s image, inside the long riverlike canyon Harmakhis Valles that flows down into Hellas Basin. The three numbered red boxes mark previous cool images posted by me:
All these photos, including today’s, show similar glacial features. All are located near the upstream source of the Harmakhis Valles. All are at 37 to 38 degrees south latitude, and are in the region scientists have dubbed “East Hellas” that appears to be one of several regions on Mars filled with glaciers that “contain nearly pure ice under a debris cover.”
The overview above suggests that the downhill grade at this location should be to the west into Hellas Basin, not to the east as it appears in the image above. The wider image to the right, taken by MRO’s context camera and rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, increases the mystery. At this point the entire Harmakhis Valles canyon appears blocked by a wall. To the east of that scarp the flows seem to head east, while to the west they seem to flow west.
I don’t claim to understand this. At first glance it appears that some of the material west of that scarp, in the area indicated by the letter “B”, are thick glaciers flowing downhill to the west. Why those glaciers however should have become so abruptly eroded at that wall so that the remaining ice to the east flows in the opposite direction makes no sense to me.
Moreover, the glaciers west of the cliff in the area marked by the letter “A” do seem to flow down to the east, the same as those glaciers below the cliff.
I suspect that in order to decipher the features here will require a careful and very wide analysis of all the flows in Harmakhis Valles in this region to map out all their flow directions. In total the glacial flow should be to the west into Hellas Basin, but locally the flow patterns are clearly much more complex.
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