Written in Stone

Geologic layering on Mars hints at past conditions

This image from the HiRISE high-resolution camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows multiple layers of exposed sedimentary rock on Mars in a region known as Arabia Terra. Referred to as “cyclic bedding” by geologists, this pattern of layering is caused by repeated fluctuations in the amount of sediment available to create new rock layers. This is often caused by long-term changes in the climate of a region, or even by wobbles in a planet’s rotation which can make certain areas experience long periods of dry climate followed by periods of wetter climate. If this is the case with these particular landforms on Mars, it may point to repeatedly wetter times in the red planet’s past.

Layer detail

The layers seen in this image are up to 30 feet thick in places and have been deposited over tens of millions of years.

The color is not true color but rather indicates different textures of material.

See the original release in the HiRISE site here. Click here for more information about the HiRISE camera.

NOTE: a bit of an optical illusion taking place here. What we’re looking down on are layered mesas that rise upwards…initially I saw them as pits with layered walls. Sunlight is coming from the lower left. 😉

Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona