Being left behind by evaporation of underground water

Being one of the closest
planets to earth and rumoured to sport life, Mars had been a fascination of
humanity for long. Although the myth of Martian life took a hit ever since the
first images from Mariner 4, the first mission to mars, depicted a barren,
rocky, dry planet, the Red Planet is still a cause of intrigue for the alien
life enthusiast. Evidences of what might have been enormous floods, features
like Recurring Slope Linea (RSL), theorised (may be too optimistically) as lines
left behind by evaporation of underground water that seeps through to the
surface, still raises enough doubts on the presence of water and thus life, on
the planet. But what is generally accepted without many doubts is that Mars is
a geologically dead planet. The absence of geologic agents preserve features on
the planet like craters and landslides. The latter is seen in plenty in a large
equatorial system of canyons called the Valles Marineris.  Roughly the size of USA, the Valles Marineris
extends from Noctis Labirynthus in the West to Eus Chasma in the east. It
reaches depths upto 7kms, appearing gigantic when compared to Earth’s Grand
Canyon which deepens to a maximum of 1.6 kms. Most scientists consider Valles
Marineris as a large tectonic crack having formed as the planet cooled,
affected by the rising crust in the Tharsis region to the East. The enormity of
the feature gave rise to exceptionally unique landslides with long runouts and
large escarpments. This facilitates the identification and measurement of
landslides in a manner unlike of terrestrial counterparts.

Numerous study have been
conducted on the landslides in Valles Marineris, most concentrating on
particular regions or chasmata. Most of the studies were intent on finding the
geomorphology and geometry of the landslides as well as preparing an inventory
and classifying them. Brunetti et al. (2014), made an inventory of landslides
on Valles Marineris over the Ius and Tithonium chasmata. They classified the
landslides as rock slides, rock avalanches, compound flow, debris flow and rock
glaciers. Their inventory also included statistics on the landslide run out
area and landslide volume. They also enquired the dynamics behind the landslide
using a slope stability analysis to learn the possible trigger for landslides.
Quantin et al. (2004) computed the mobility of landslide as the ratio between
the length of runout and length of landslide fall. They also attempted a
classification of landslides into chaotic, structural deposit with debris
apron, structural deposit without debris apron and hanging landslides. Fabio
Vittorio De Blassio (2011), relied on the presence of burrows as a
geomorphological evidence for a fluidisation process behind the triggering of
landslides. Muzzanti et al. examined the flow characteristics and velocity of
three landslides in Valles Marineris and inferred a low basal friction as
caused by ice. Chojnacki et al. used THEMIS derived thermal inertia maps to
identify morphological units including landslides.

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This study aims at a
comprehensive study on the landslides on Valles Marineris including a thorough
mapping from the Noctis Labyrunthus from the west to the Eus Chasma in the east
and from the Hebas Chasma in the north to the Melas Chasma in the south. A
thorough morphological classification of landslides is also intended which is
to be primarily achieved using visual interpretation though thermal imagery
could be used to aid in accurate classification. Individual landslides will be
considered to carry out specific study including area and volume calculation,
mobility etc. These landslides will be selected according to the availability
of high resolution MCC images. Important landslides that fall outside of the high
resolution MCC availability will be studied using other high resolution imagery
like the CTX, HRSC, HiRISE etc. and using thermal data like THEMIS. An inquiry
into the dynamics of the landslides including a possible fluid lubrication,
will be carried out with the help of CRISM hyperspectral data and THEMIS
temperature data. A study into the mineral distribution and stratigraphy of the
landslides will also be carried out. A change detection study on specific areas
could be carried out subjected to the availability of multi-temporal HiRISE

This study will be
exclusively striving for a complete mapping of the landslides in the Valles
Marineris region covering the Noctis Labarynthus region, Ius region, Tithonium region,
Hebes region, Ophir region, Candor region, Melas region, Coprates region, Ganges
and Capri region and Eos region. This study aims at a thorough morphological
classification of these landslides using various imagery. A well-defined and
detailed landslide inventory is expected to be an outcome of this study.
Moreover, though studies on Valles Marineris landslides are not uncommon,
negligible work had been carried out using MCC images. This study intends to
perform a detailed analysis on the geometry, mobility, morphology and dynamism
of certain landslides that are covered using high resolution MCC images. This
study will also conduct a specific investigation of the role of water on
landslide initiation. This investigation will also extrapolate to an enquiry on
possible sub surface water resources. A combination of visible, hyperspectral
and thermal data will be used for this.   


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