Gullies Near the Head of Dao Vallis
Gullies Near the Head of Dao Vallis
PSP_003824_1470  Science Theme: Volcanic Processes
Dao Vallis is a giant canyon carved into the side of the ancient volcano Hadriaca Patera. Imaging locations such as this can allow HiRISE to see the insides of Martian volcanoes.

In this case, the valley wall is covered with a mantling deposit that has been cut in many places by gullies. Only faint traces of rocky layers are visible. These might be extensively eroded ancient lava flows.

One striking aspect of this image is the dearth of impact craters, and the underlying surface is very ancient. However, the mantling deposit is young (or renews itself quickly).

Features in this (and other HiRISE images of similar mantling deposits) complicate one of the many models for how gullies form. Based on lower resolution images, it was suggested that the head (or amphitheater) of the gullies was filled with dirty snow when Mars' climate was different. As the base of this snow pack melted, small rivulets of water would erode the gullies. The smooth mantling deposits found in the gullies were speculated to be patches of this snow that has survived to the present day.

However, HiRISE sees large boulders in these deposits which would be difficult to have in a snow pack.

Written by: Laszlo P. Kestay  (13 June 2007)
Acquisition date
21 May 2007

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
255.7 km (158.9 miles)

Original image scale range
25.9 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~78 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel and North is up

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Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
47°, with the Sun about 43° above the horizon

Solar longitude
242.1°, Northern Autumn

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North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  5.7°
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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.