The edge of an eroded buried Martian glacier

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The edge of an eroded buried Maritian glacier
Click for full resolution image.


Cool image time! The image to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on April 6, 2020.

The image shows the dying edge of a debris flow coming down from a mesa, the edge of which can be seen as the dark slopes in the upper left. The white arrows point up slope. It is located in the chaos terrain of a mid-latitude region called Deuteronilus Mensae, in the transition zone between the southern highlands and northern lowlands, where many such glacial-like features are found. I featured a similar nearby glacial edge only two months ago, where the image showed the glacier’s break up and collapse at its edge.

Here, the debris flow isn’t breaking up so much as crumbling away, its edge a line of meandering depressions, with the uphill slope covered with many knobs and tiny depressions, reminiscent to me of the many features I see in caves, where the downward flow of water shapes and erodes everything to form cups and holes and knobs, all the same size. If you click on the full resolution image and zoom into that debris slope and then compare it with the linked cave formation photo, you will see the resemblance.

We are almost certainly looking at a buried inactive glacial flow coming off that mesa, though it appears to be eroding at its foot. The overview image to the right shows the context, with the red dots indicating this image as well as similar features in adjacent mensae regions (featured in the linked images above). While the chaotic and rough terrain found along this transition zone does not make them good first settlement sites, the ample evidence of vast reservoirs of buried ice, combined with a variety of topography, will likely someday make this good real estate for those living on Mars.



  • LocalFluff

    Do you think that all these glaciers are left overs (dust covered) polar caps from Mars’ history of flipping over its axis of rotation? I imagine the polar caps, the areas where the atmosphere condenses to ice, are migrating as their orientation relative to the Sun changes. Throughout the ages, all of Mars’ surface has been polar at some time.

    I wonder whether it is a coincidence that today the low land hemisphere happens to be perfectly aligned with the northern hemisphere. Or if this somehow is gravitationally more stable.

  • LocalFluff: To answer your question in a word: Yes. You were not around for awhile, so you probably missed a lot of my posts in the past year on this subject. Do a search on BtB on “glaciers” and you will be able to catch up.

    This post however provides a good summary: The glaciers of Mars

  • Max

    Like your name, I still believe that the evidence suggest that Europa, Mars, and earth as well as most of the outer solar system’s moons and comets were covered in gases from a supernova in the Local Fluff. A chimney full of gases that drifted our way, causing the sun to go dark, condensed in the cold and froze to all surfaces that came in contact with, covering Mars and earth in an ice age as described with woolly mammoth being covered in 100 feet of ice with butter cups in their mouth’s. A sudden catastrophic event that would add so much mass to every gravitational body that it would alter the orbits causing chaos events.
    An unstable Sun can also throw gases out in the solar wind throughout the system. This is unlikely because it would’ve made life on this planet difficult instead of just a few extinction events. This would also explain how we got so much nitrogen and water.
    The Martian ice caps and any glaciers covered in dust will tell quite a story as being leftover remnants of the supernova inner galactic cloud event. A cloud of dust and gas that is not much different than what covers the center of our own galaxy hiding it from our view.

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