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Welcome to Mars’ “landslide alley”

This morning I was messing about with carefully studying Mars with Google Mars. I started off with flying around Olympus Mons, as you do, then headed east up the huge Mariner Valley, you know, just looking for interesting scenery. Eventually I kind of lost interest in that, so decided to hunt for what has now officially become My Favourite Crater On Mars – this half-eroded, multi-walled beauty that overlooks Ganges Chasma from the north side…

I mean, come on, what’s not to love? It’s gorgeous! Well, to a geology enthusiast and Mars nut, anyway! ;-)

After a little bit of searching I eventually found My Crater (wish I knew its real name… if it doesn’t have one, it’s about time it did!) with Google Mars…

Of course, the really cool thing about Google Mars is the way it lets you explore the red planet in glorious tiltable, pannable, “ooh!”able 3D. So I started playing about with the view…

Hang on – what the ??? is that, down on the valley floor? That looks like a landslide – a huge landslide…

Click… click… click…

Wow… look at that… there’s another enormous landslide on the opposite side of the canyon too – and it has to be a younger one, because it has flowed over and partially covered the leading edge of the fan of material that fell into the canyon and spread across it from just beneath My Crater…! And there, further along the canyon floor, to the west, it looks like there are other landslides too… Time to gain some altitude…

Just look at that… landslides everywhere! I can count nine separate ones. Just imagine the violence that has occurred in this part of the great Marineris Valley, again and again, over and over. Here’s an image of a “frost and dust” avalanche caught by HiRISE near Mars’ north pole recently…

…which is pretty impressive! But look again at those Ganges landslides…

How many hundreds or thousands of tonnes of rock, dirt and dust fell from those canyon walls, smashed into the canyon floor then spread across it in tsunamis of shattered stone? Obviously, unlike the avalanche seen in the image above, the Ganges landslides happened a long, long time ago. But what would it have been like to have stood here…

…on the edge of the canyon as they happened?

Now, those pictures are pretty amazing, but they don’t really give a sense of scale, do they? Thankfully, Google Mars can fix that… I hope you’re sitting down, these next two pics are pretty stunning, but unless you’re reading this on a ridiculously-large monitor you’ll probably need to click on them to enlarge them enough to be able to read what’s on them…

In years to come, explorers, then pioneers and eventually settlers will come to this place and gaze upon it with eyes wide with wonder, and they’ll wonder what it would have been like to see those great columns and shelves of ancient martian rock just fall away and slam into the canyon floor, with a great “WHUMPFFF!” that sent vibrations and shock waves shuddering through you as you watched? What would it have been like to stand on the canyon floor itself, and see those great tidal waves of pulverised rock and stone and dirt boiling towards you..?

I think I’ve just found a new ‘favourite place’ on Mars… :-)

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4 Responses

  1. Totally.
    Fraking.
    Awesome.

  2. I really need to spend more time with Google Mars!

  3. Can you figure out the distance from the top of the canyon to the canyon floor?

  4. Wow! That’s awesome! I really like Google Mars and have been playing around with it a lot lately. I have a blog that posts similar content. Would you mind following me?

    http://googleearthtimemachine.blogspot.com/

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