MARSQUAKES shook up range of hills in ancient lake bed

Xenogeologists release new map of 'Candor Colles' down low in the Valles Marineris

Candor Colles map

NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS) reckon they've found evidence of ancient earthquakes on Mars. Or should that be Marsquakes?

The evidence was spotted in the west Candor Chasma, one of the canyons in the Valles Marineris canyon system. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) has been checking out Candor Chasma, in part because the canyon's bottom looks to be a place where sediments produced by past erosion would be likely to gather.

Now, the USGS says the maps it's made of the region reveal that “... wet sediments experienced seismic shaking, called 'marsquakes,' which were related to movement along several large faults in the area.”

“The shaking caused the sediments to liquefy and formed features called injectite megapipes, which are now a series of low hills throughout the map area”

That map (PDF here) is said to be the most detailed yet of Mars, and to be comparable to the maps terrestrial geologists work with.

The Marsquake-made feature of the map is called “the Candor Colles” and Dr. Marjorie Chan,a geology professor at the University of Utah, is excited about them.

“Injectite pipes are observed in analogous sedimentary systems on Earth, such as the Jurassic Entrada Sandstone and Carmel Formation, but on Mars they might be an order of magnitude larger than most terrestrial examples,” she's quoted as saying. “These Mars megapipe features could have been preferential pathways for ancient ground waters.”

NASA and the USGS' new Map of the Candor Colels

NASA and the USGS' new Map of the Candor Colles. Full map here as a PDF or here at a slightly larger size.

That kind of speculation is, as ever, just one element of humanity's study of Mars: it's nice to be able to decipher the red planet's geological history and see if the processes on our own world mirror those of Mars'. It's also nice to get a feel for what we'll see at closer range if we ever make it there.

That's a big if, for lots of reasons. But none more, perhaps, than the declaration by Laszlo Kestay, the USGS Astrogeology Science Center's director, that this new map “... demonstrates how the very high resolution topographic and image data we can obtain from Mars’ orbit enables scientific studies on par with rovers and other spacecraft that land on Mars.” ®

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