Weird glacial features in Martian crater


Genesis cover

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"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

weird glacial feature in crater on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! In reviewing today’s October release of new images from the high resolution camera of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), I came across the strange geology shown in the image to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here.

The uncaptioned image calls these “glacial features within crater.” The crater is located at 35 degrees north latitude in Arabia Terra, one of the more extensive regions of the transition zone between the northern lowlands and the southern highlands. It is also located within the northern band from 30 to 60 degrees latitude where most of the buried Martian glaciers are found.

The most abundant type of buried glaciers are called concentric crater fill (CCF) because they are found inside craters, and often show decay in a concentric manner. This weird feature likely falls into that category, though I would hardly call these glacier features concentric.

I’m not even sure if this is an impact crater. If it is, its rim has been heavily obscured, making it look instead like an irregular depression with one outlet to the south. In fact, I suspect it is possibly one of the lakes that scientists believe pepper this part of Arabia Terra and might have contained liquid water two to three billion years ago. That water would have later frozen, and possibly become covered by dust and debris to protect it.

According to present theories, Mars is presently in a period where its mid-latitude glaciers are shrinking, the water sublimating away and being transported back to its poles. The weird formations here suggest this process. Imagine what happens when you spray warm water on a big block of ice. It dissolves, but randomly to form weird shapes.

In this case the glacier is shrinking randomly where the ice has gotten exposed. In the thin Martian atmosphere, it transitions directly from a solid to a gas, sublimating into the atmosphere to leave these inexplicable shapes.

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2 comments

  • Dwayne Grassie

    Wow. Mid-latitude glaciers on Mars are shrinking. The effects of global climate change are spreading to other planets! WE MUST ACT NOW OR THE ENTIRE SOLAR SYSTEM IS AT RISK!

  • Questioner

    Mr. Z, you obviously love Mars in all its facets. If we want to preserve these natural wonders on Mars, this planet must be protected from human activity. This is especially true for potentially existing life on Mars. Even the simplest forms of life are invaluable to mankind and science. Man does not need Mars because of its possible resources. Mars should be left to itself and the planet should stay as it is.

    Therefore, I demand: The massive destructive efforts of Elon Musk to bring huge amount of material and people on Mars and thus not correctable to change, must be hampered and stopped by the governments of the world !!!

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