Bright Tracks from Bouncing and Rolling Boulders
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Bright Tracks from Bouncing and Rolling Boulders
ESP_031103_1405  Science Theme: Mass Wasting Processes
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This image shows a well-preserved impact crater. A closeup view highlights distinctive bright lines and spots on the steep slope on the north side.

HiRISE imaged this crater 5 years ago (2.6 Mars years ago), in March 2008, and no such pattern was visible. The discontinuous bright spots indicate bouncing, so we interpret these features as due to boulders bouncing and rolling down the slope.

Where did the boulders come from? Maybe they fell off of the steep upper cliffs of the crater, although we don't see any new bright features there that point to the source. Maybe the rocks were ejecta from a new impact event somewhere nearby.

Why are the trails bright? Perhaps the shallow subsurface soil here is generally brighter than the surface soil, as revealed by the Spirit rover in a part of Gusev Crater. It can't be bright from ice because this is a warm equator-facing slope seen in the summer.

Written by: Alfred McEwen   (10 April 2013)



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Acquisition date:16 March 2013 Local Mars time: 2:37 PM
Latitude (centered):-39.329° Longitude (East):172.029°
Range to target site:255.0 km (159.3 miles)Original image scale range:25.5 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~77 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale:25 cm/pixel and North is upMap projection:Equirectangular
Emission angle:9.0° Phase angle:45.0°
Solar incidence angle:36°, with the Sun about 54° above the horizon Solar longitude:282.9°, Northern Winter
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North azimuth:96° Sub-solar azimuth:17.3°
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North azimuth:270°Sub solar azimuth:191.4°

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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.