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Boulders a’bouncing on Mars…

I love HiRISE. I love it more than a politician loves┬átheir expense claim forms, even more than that annoyingly smug one with the frizzy hair on Eggheads loves himself. It’s just a fantastic instrument on a fantastic spaceprobe, operated by fantastic people who clearly love Mars. Every now and again one of its images makes the news – recently its portraits of Deimos rightly made headlines – but there are so many hidden gems in its dataset just waiting for people to stumble upon them.

This morning, while waiting for an email to come in from one of my publishers, I dipped into the dangerously-addictive Mars Global Data website, and just had a wander around, clicking on a few red squares (each one representing a HiRISE image) to see what appeared. Click – nothing… click, naah, nothing special there either… click –

Hang on.

Hmmm…

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That’s a close-up of Aram Chaos, one of my favourite places on Mars… what’s that slumpy feature in the centre? It looked like a section of the valley wall had come loose and slid down to the lower ground below… time to zoom in for a closer look…

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(raised Spok eyebrow) Fascinating… lots of rocks and boulders in the avalanche of material that’s fallen from the slopes… but looking even more closely, I found this…

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The track of a huge boulder that had fallen from the valley wall and tumbled down, bouncing and rolling and boinging along for a long, long way… incredible to think that if I’d been standing there whenever that happened I’d have been able to see that chunk of rock rebounding off the surface again and again and again… But that wasn’t the only track, they are everywhere, and this one (colourised by me) really grabbed my attention…

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Click on that image (or any of the images) to bring up a full sized version.

You know what I love about these images? They show movement, they show that things are moving on Mars right now. It’s not the dead, lifeless, corpse of a world I grew up with; it’s a world – we now know – where dust devils whirl and twirl across the plains… where clouds drift through the pale pink sky… and where huge stones fall from high cliff face, fall to the ground below, then bounce and roll and crash over it… unseen by anyone.

For now.