NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS
Channels from Hale Crater
Geologists who study Earth’s surface have several advantages over those who study other planets: they can often walk up to the units they are interested in, see them up close, touch them, test samples of them in laboratories – in short, they generally have much greater access to their research areas than scientists who study other planets.

Though Earth remains a much more accessible field site, wonderful leaps in technology have provided Martian scientists increasingly detailed information about the red planet. Rovers and landers have touched, tested, and sent back high-resolution images of rocks in their paths. They provide a wealth of data about the rocks they sample, but their global coverage is quite small. Orbiters have taken two-dimensional (2D) images in various resolutions, and altimeters and other radar data have added a third dimension to spatial data. Most of this information is very useful for studying large-scale questions about units that are aerially extensive.

HiRISE bridges the gap between the exceptionally detailed, spatially limited information provided by landers and the aerially extensive, lower resolution information provided by most other orbiting instruments. It captures the highest resolution images ever seen of Mars from an orbiter (25-32 centimeters per pixel). By taking two HiRISE images of the same area from slightly different angles (called a stereo pair), scientists can make Digital Terrain Models (DTMs), also known as Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), via the techniques described in Kirk et al. 2008 in the Journal of Geophysical Research. DTMs give scientists a 3D perspective of Martian terrain, with meter-scale topography and slope information.

The DTM of Hale’s channels allows scientists to precisely measure the profiles of channels emanating from this impact crater. Because the channels are relatively small (10s to 100s of meters across, where 1 meter equals approximately 3 feet), no other tool currently available could provide the detail required to obtain these measurements. Precise knowledge of the channel dimensions allows scientists to more accurately estimate the peak discharges that may have carved the channels, and thereby obtain the best possible estimate of the amount of water that may have been released by the Hale-forming impact event without going there ourselves.

Written by Andrea Philippoff Jones

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Left observation

Right observation

Latitude (center)

Longitude (center)

Map scale
2.01 meter/pixel

North azimuth

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