Exposure of South Polar Layered Deposits

A complex geologic history is on display in this image of the south polar layered deposits. These layered deposits are a mixture of dust and water-ice. Each layer is thought to record information about the state of the Martian climate at the time of its deposition.

The original stack of layered ice has eroded to produce a scarp that exposes the internal layers. Smooth material was then deposited to cover this scarp before being in turn eroded. Deposition on top of an eroded surface like this produces what geologists call an “unconformity in the stratigraphic record.” Remnants of this smooth material can be seen at the top of the image and draping the layered scarp near the image center.

Although it looks, at first glance, like this material has flowed down the scarp, that is unlikely to have happened. The extremely cold temperatures at the Martian poles mean that ice in general does not flow like we see it do here on Earth. There are also no indications of some of the geomorphologic features that flowing ice typically acquires (such as crevasses, compressional ridges or moraines). Written by: Shane Byrne   (27 September 2007)

This is a stereo pair with PSP_005102_1030 .

More info and image formats at http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/PSP_005155_1030

Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona