While I was browsing Mars on Google Earth, I stumbled upon an interesting feature on one of the slopes of Valles Marineris. The feature seems unique in the sense that I couldn't find any similar element on the valley.

Top View 3D Front View

It made me think of sand that just fell from the clifftop or the veins of water that have already been observed on Mars (such as http://www.wired.com/2011/03/happy-birthday-mro/#slideid-591036). But it doesn't seems to match completely with this explanation.

Does any of you have seen this before from current Mars research or from similar phenomenon on Earth?

Coordinates :

14°32'25.35"S 54°15'12.43"O

Google GMail direct link : https://www.google.ch/maps/space/mars/@-14.5528401,-54.2675885,41353a,20y,4.75h,0.44t/data=!3m1!1e3

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    $\begingroup$ There is a lot of interpolation going on. So it may not mean anything. For example, in your second picture, in some regions the top of the hill connects to the next layer in a very discontinuous fashion. Which seems to indicate an artifact of the interpolation. While these images come from the HiRISE camera it does not guarantee that what is presented by the google mars engine is anything like the 0.3 m resolution pictures we can obtain. space.stackexchange.com/questions/1140/… $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 7:52
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    $\begingroup$ Your Google link brings me to the wrong planet (Earth). $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ @gerrit Google missed that left turn at Albuquerque? $\endgroup$
    – user889
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ It's really hurting my brain that these two images are from opposite angles. I can't figure out the shadows in the first one. $\endgroup$
    – naught101
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 4:48

1 Answer 1


Looking at the 2nd image in your question, namely of the vertical profile, the feature inhabits what appears to be an erosion channel to the valley floor (a very rough estimate of the erosion channel is shown below).

enter image description here

(Please excuse the rough-MS Paint style arrow)

The feature has the appearance of being an example of a small slope failure, a similar, but much smaller example of other much larger landslides have been observed in the Valles Marineris according to the article Long-runout landslides and the long-lasting effects of early water activity on Mars (Watkins et al. 2014).

According to research based on observations of similar larger scale features, the article Mechanisms of slope failure in Valles Marineris, Mars (Neuffer and Schultz, 2006) slope failures on Mars have been found to occur due to gravitational, fluid or seismic (i.e. 'marsquakes') influences.

The other influence as to why these landslides occur in the area is explained by Watkins et al. (2014) from observations and models based on spectral imaging and satellite image analyses, a significant amount of hydrated silicate clays contained within the stratigraphy of the Valles Marineris facilitate geomorphic processes, including landslides - the process is aptly used as the title of the Red Planet Report web-article Clays greased long landslides in Valles Marineris.


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