Bouncing Boulder Blocks a Slope Streak
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Bouncing Boulder Blocks a Slope Streak
ESP_014394_2045  Science Theme: Mass Wasting Processes
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A boulder track is visible in the center of this subimage.

The track formed on the sloping wall of an impact crater when a rock bounced or rolled downhill leaving behind marks on the surface. In the full image, you can see its whole path, starting from a cliff to the east, from which it presumably originated. The boulder itself is visible as a brighter rock in the middle of the dark slope streak, where it finally came to a halt.

Slope streaks begin at a point, and it only takes a small disturbance at that point to initiate the streak, such as a dust devil or an impact crater. We have seen these streaks appear before, so this is an ongoing process on Mars. The streaks tend to start out dark and fade as they get older; we have even seen some that are lighter in color than their surroundings. Scientists think these are caused by dry avalanches of dust or sand falling downhill, revealing darker material underneath. The streaks are very shallow and don't appear to disturb pre-existing features on the surface, like ripples, or in this case, the boulder tracks. This case is particularly interesting because the slope streak appears to have flowed around the boulder, leaving a patch of brighter material undisturbed in the lee of the rock. From this relationship, you can tell that the boulder must have fallen before the slope streak formed.

For scale, the boulder is about 6 meters (approximately 20 feet) across, and the dark streak is about 125 meters (approximately 400 feet) wide at its widest point.

Thanks to the sharp-eyed HiRISE fan Daniel who brought this image to our attention!

Written by: Ingrid Daubar Spitale   (14 October 2009)

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Acquisition date
22 August 2009

Local Mars time:
14:13

Latitude (centered)
24.355°

Longitude (East)
217.602°

Range to target site
287.7 km (179.8 miles)

Original image scale range
57.6 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~173 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
50 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection
Equirectangular

Emission angle:
8.8°

Phase angle:
44.0°

Solar incidence angle
50°, with the Sun about 40° above the horizon

Solar longitude
325.4°, Northern Winter

North azimuth:
96°

Sub-solar azimuth:
318.8°
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All of the images produced by HiRISE and accessible on this site are within the public domain: there are no restrictions on their usage by anyone in the public, including news or science organizations. We do ask for a credit line where possible:
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona



Postscript
For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona. The image data were processed using the U.S. Geological Survey’s ISIS3 software.