Medusae Fossae Formation
About this image
This THEMIS visible image shows examples of the remarkable variations that can be seen in the erosion of the Medusae Fossae Formation. The formation is a soft, easily eroded deposit that extends for nearly 5,000 km along the equator of Mars.
In this region, like many others throughout the Medusae Fossae Formation, the surface has been eroded by the wind into a series of linear ridges called yardangs. The ridges generally point in direction of the prevailing winds that carved them, and demonstrate the power of martian winds to erode the landscape of Mars. The easily eroded nature of the Medusae Fossae Formation suggests that it is composed of weakly cemented particles, and was most likely formed by the deposition of wind-blown dust or volcanic ash.
Within this single image it is possible to see differing amounts of erosion and stripping of layers in the Medusae Fossae Formation.
Near the bottom (southern) edge of the image a rock layer with a relatively smooth upper surface covers much of the image. Moving upwards (north) in the image this layer becomes more and more eroded. At first there are isolated regions where the smooth unit has been eroded to produce sets of parallel ridges and knobs. Further north these linear knobs increase in number, and only small, isolated patches of the smooth upper surface remain. Finally, at the top of the image, even the ridges have been removed, exposing the remarkably smooth top of hard, resistant layer below.
This sequence of layers with differing hardness and resistance to erosion is common on Earth and on Mars, and suggests significant variations in the physical properties, composition, particle size, and/or cementation of these martian layers. As is common throughout the Medusae Fossae Formation, very few impact craters are visible, indicating that the surface exposed is relatively young, and that the process of erosion may be active today.
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