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Flat tadpole depression in ancient Martian crater

Flat tadpole depression in ancient Martian crater
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, rotated, cropped, reducedl, and enhanced to post here, was taken on February 24, 2024 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Dubbed a “terrain sample” by the camera team, it was likely taken not as part of any specific research project but to fill a gap in the camera’s schedule so as to maintain that camera’s proper temperature. When they have to do this, they try to pick interesting targets, though there is no guarantee the result will be very interesting.

In this case the camera team already knew this location would have intriguing geology, based on an earlier terrain sample taken a year ago only eight miles to the south. The landscape here is a flat plateaus surrounding flat depressions, some of which appear connected by drainage channels. Today’s picture shows one flat depression with a short tail-like channel flowing into it.

Note the pockmarked surface. The many holes could be impact craters, but they also could be holes caused when the near-surface ice at this location sublimated into gas and bubbled upward to escape. Now all we see is dry bedrock, the flat ground riddled with holes.

Overview map

The rectangles on the overview map and in the inset marks the location, just to the east of Ares Vallis. The red dot in the inset marks the location of the previous cool image.

The inset shows that this location is on the floor of a 60-mile-wide unnamed crater, with its topography of flat plateaus and depressions suggesting a south-to-north flow that once cut through the crater’s rims to then flow west into Ares Vallis itself.

This is very ancient landscape, that might have once contained a lot of near surface ice, glaciers, or a surface flow of liquid water. Located now in the dry equatorial region, that ice is all gone, leaving behind this pockmarked surface suggesting a long process whereby as that ice disappeared it eroded the surface in many ways.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

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