October 11, 2007
Like sand dunes waving across a vast desert, folds of rock seem to ripple over the floor of the Western Candor Chasma, a major canyon in Mars's Valles Marineris rift system (see a Mars map
The patterns are created by multiple layers of light-colored rocks that once shifted and folded along Martian faults and are now being exposed by erosion.
This striking image is among 143 high-resolution color images of Mars released yesterday by NASA. These are the first color images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
NASA trained the camera's eye on 30 of the proposed landing sites for the Mars Science Laboratory, a mission launching in 2009 that will send a new rover to Mars carrying sophisticated scientific instruments.
"Scientists planning the Mars Science Laboratory must soon choose the one site on Mars where we can best investigate the extent to which Mars's environment is or was capable of supporting lifeno easy task," Ashwin Vasavada, the lab mission's deputy project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a press statement.
And color is an important aspect of the planning, the scientists say, since it can help determine the types of surface materials at various sites and how those materials relate to local topography.
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Image courtesy NASA/JPL/University of Arizona