Medusae Fossae Formation
October 8, 2009
This THEMIS visible image shows a remarkable martian geologic deposit known as the Medusae Fossae Formation. This Formation, seen here as the raised plateau in the upper two-thirds of the image, is a soft, easily eroded deposit that extends for nearly 1,000 km along the equator of Mars. In this region the deposit has been heavily eroded by the wind to produce a series of linear ridges called yardangs. These parallel ridges point in direction of the prevailing winds that carved them, and demonstrate the power of martian winds to sculpt the dry landscape of Mars. The Medusae Fossae Formation has been completely stripped from the surface in the lower third of the image, revealing a harder layer below that is more resistant to wind erosion. The easily eroded nature of the Medusae Fossae Formation suggests that it is composed of weakly cemented particles, and was most likely formed by the deposition of wind-blown dust or volcanic ash. Several ancient craters that were once completely buried by this deposit are being exposed, or exhumed, as the overlying Medusae Formation is removed. Very few impact craters are visible on this Formation, indicating that the surface seen today is relatively young, and that the processes of erosion are likely to be actively occurring.
Topics: Environment, Amazonis quadrangle, Planetary geology, Planetary science, Medusae Fossae Formation, Astronomy