Layered Sediments in Valles Marineris
Layered Sediments in Valles Marineris
ESP_061085_1740  Science Theme: Composition and Photometry
Layered sedimentary rocks are key to understanding the geologic history of a planet, recording the sequence of deposition and the changes over time in the materials that were deposited.

These layered sediments are on the floor of eastern Coprates Chasma in Valles Marineris, the grandest canyon on Mars. They are erosional remnants of a formerly much more extensive sedimentary deposit that once filled the floor of the canyon but is nowadays reduced to isolated mesas.

The origin of the deposits is not yet known. Various theories attribute the sediments to wind blown dust and sand, or to volcanic materials, or accumulations of debris from avalanches originating from the canyon walls, or even to lakebed sediments laid down when the canyons were filled with liquid water. Some sediments are devoid of boulders or blocks larger than the limit of resolution (about 0.5 meters), so avalanche debris is unlikely. We see fine laminations with a horizontal spacing of about 2 meters and a vertical separation less than 2 meters. No previous orbital observations were capable of resolving such fine scale layering.

Written by: Paul Geissler (narration: Tre Gibbs)  (18 November 2019)
Acquisition date
08 August 2019

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
267.0 km (165.9 miles)

Original image scale range
26.9 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~81 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
52°, with the Sun about 38° above the horizon

Solar longitude
63.4°, Northern Spring

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  40.3°
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Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
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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. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.