The HiRISE imager on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) took this image of a boulder field on Mars. The boulders are alongside of a canyon probably resulting from a land slide – see the caption below.
I spent quite a lot of time looking at the image looking for tracks and was thinking about what would trigger a landslide on Mars. Meteor hit? Seismic activity? The Seismic activity question was to be answered following the NASA’s launch of the InSight spacecraft which was built with a multi-national effort.
Insight was to launch in March and was going to look at conditions in the interior of Mars. A technical problem with a seismometer holding vacuum is going to delay the launch for the entirety of 2016.
About the image with links to a great 3-D version:
The striking feature in this image is a boulder-covered landslide along a canyon wall. Landslides occur when steep slopes fail, sending a mass of soil and rock to flow downhill, leaving behind a scarp at the top of the slope. The mass of material comes to rest when it reaches shallower slopes, forming a lobe of material that ends in a well-defined edge called a toe. (Take a look at the anaglyph to compare the steep cliff and landslide scarp to the relatively flat valley floor. )
This landslide is relatively fresh, as many individual boulders still stand out above the main deposit. Additionally, while several small impact craters are visible in the landslide lobe, they are smaller in size and fewer in number than those on the surrounding valley floor. The scarp itself also looks fresh compared to the rest of the cliff: it, too, has boulders, and more varied topography than the adjacent dusty terrain.
Just to the north of the landslide scarp is a similarly-shaped scar on the cliffside. However, there is no landslide material on the valley floor below it. The older landslide deposit has either been removed or buried, a further indicator of the relative youth of the bouldery landslide.
This is a stereo pair with ESP_036886_1760.
The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona